SEMINOLE — St. Petersburg Catholic coach Nick Vandewalle didn't panic when his team trailed by 14 points at halftime Saturday in the Class 3A, District 9 final against Indian Rocks Christian. The Barons had trailed plenty at halftime this season.
He just told his team to relax and play tenacious defense in the second half. Did they ever.
St. Petersburg Catholic held IRC to four second-half points (none in the fourth quarter) to storm back for a 50-43 win. It's the first time this season SPC held a team scoreless in a quarter.
The Barons (23-4) will host Bradenton Christian on Thursday in a region quarterfinal. The Golden Eagles will play at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney.
"We're kind of a second-half team," Vandewalle said. "And if I was going to pick a half to be a good team, it would be the second."
The Barons weren't bad in the first half, it's just that IRC was better. After trailing by three points to start the second quarter, the Golden Eagles (21-6) went on a 16-2 run to take a 39-25 lead. The run was led by Tori Trador, who made three 3-pointers, and Kristen Scholl, who had 14 first-half points.
The second half was much different. Both teams had trouble scoring in the third, and SPC still trailed by 11 going into the fourth. Then came an 18-0 run for the Barons, who got six 3-pointers from Annie Artise, and several layups and steals from Brittany Dunbar. Artise finished with 21 points, including her 1,000th point at the school, and Dunbar had 16.
"We did just the opposite of what I told them to do at halftime," IRC coach Phil Farver said. "We had two or three girls decide they were going to do it their way, so that's the result. … Our leadership just went out the window."
And a lot of IRC passes went to the Barons.
"We've prided ourselves on defense all year," Vandewalle said. "We try to hold teams to under 40 points, so to give up 39 at halftime was a shock. But we dialed up the pressure in the second half."