HOLIDAY — Kayla Kivinski and Gulf started slowly Saturday night against Pasco. But when the sophomore star ignited in the third quarter, so did the Buccaneers.
Kivinski scored 14 of her game-high 23 in the third quarter to help Gulf break open the game and earn the Class 5A, District 8 title with a 58-47 victory.
"Kayla's like a microwave," Gulf coach Mike Quarto said. "When Kayla gets hot, she can go off. And tonight she went off."
But it took her a half to get there. Kivinski missed seven of her first eight shots, and Gulf (26-2) shot 29 percent from the field in the first two quarters at Anclote.
Captain Lexy Schulman bailed out the offense with 10 first-half points to help the Bucs build a 26-25 halftime lead and give Kivinski and her teammates time to catch fire.
"We took over," said Kivinski, who scored seven of the first nine points of the third period on a putback, two free throws and the first of her three 3-pointers.
That outburst, and four Pasco turnovers in the first 2 minutes, 52 seconds of the second half, sparked a 13-2 Gulf run that propelled the Bucs to their third consecutive district title.
"We came out and slammed the door early in the third," Quarto said.
Defense also played a key role in Gulf's game-breaking third quarter. The Bucs held Pasco (24-3) to 3-for-17 shooting and only seven points.
Gulf center Lyndsey Hetrick contained Pasco post player Ashley Webster, who scored 23 in their previous meeting but mustered only four points Saturday.
Bucs junior Kadejah Huggins-Saunders scored 11 and grabbed 11 rebounds to hand the Pirates their third loss of the season. All of their defeats have come against Gulf.
Allahon Marbra led Pasco with 16 points, while Brianca Roberts (13) and Aaliyah McKenzie (10) also scored in double figures.
The Bucs will host this week's region quarterfinal game against Tavares, while Pasco will be on the road for its first trip to region since 2007 against Nature Coast.
5A-7: Nature Coast prevails over Tavares
The Sharks used a 22-point fourth quarter to knock off Tavares 50-35 and claim the Class 5A, District 7 title at Eustis.
Nature Coast (21-3), which will host Pasco in the region quarterfinals, started strong but faded in the second and third quarters when the Bulldogs pressed.
But Je'Nel Yore scored eight of her 10 points in the final quarter to help the Sharks pull away.
"It was just a matter of coming up with a couple big buckets," Sharks coach Emily Gore said.
Courtney Crawford dominated with 15 points, 19 rebounds and five assists. Senior point guard Carcy Bossey dished out seven assists and sank 5 of 6 free throws in the final quarter to help seal the victory.