Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

District girls basketball: Dixie Hollins secures first-ever playoff berth

ST. PETERSBURG — The district semifinals is where girls basketball seasons usually end for Dixie Hollins.

Not this time. Meagan Thomas made sure of it.

Thomas, one of Pinellas County's most prolific scorers, scored 34 points in leading the Rebels to a 65-51 win over Largo in the Class 6A, District 10 semifinals Wednesday to secure the school's first-ever playoff berth.

Dixie Hollins (15-5) will host Mitchell (14-10) in Friday's championship game. Mitchell beat Osceola 38-25 to ensure a fourth straight trip to the postseason.

"This win was really big," Thomas said. "It's recognition for everything that we've worked for all season. For me, it's been four seasons. This was a long time coming."

The Rebels entered the district tournament as the top seed and swept the Packers during the regular season, though the margin of victory was three points.

On Wednesday, Dixie Hollins had trouble breaking away early and led just 20-19 after the first quarter.

But Thomas kept firing away and scoring. In the first half, she had 27 points, including four 3-pointers. That helped the Rebels build a double-digit lead by halftime.

"I think the girls had some nerves at the start of the game and didn't want to mess anything up," Dixie Hollins coach Kelley Jones said. "Meagan got us going by scoring, and I think that gave the other girls confidence."

In the second half, Thomas had just seven points, but she helped the Rebels maintain a comfortable lead by distributing the ball to her teammates. Kinza Khan was other Dixie Hollins player to reach double figures with 10 points.

"(Largo) was starting to key on me more," Thomas said. "So I felt like I needed to get my teammates involved. I like to share the ball with them."

The goal this season for the Rebels was to not just make the playoffs but to win the district title and hang a banner in the gymnasium. The only district title Dixie Hollins has won in a girls sport was in flag football.

The Rebels have a good shot considering they swept the Mustangs during the regular season.

"We got past the first hurdle, but the girls want to keep this going," Jones said.

In the other semifinal in New Port Richey, Mitchell held state 3-point leader Katie Horan and Osceola scoreless in the second quarter during a 38-25 victory.

Horan had burned Mitchell for 34 points less than three weeks ago, so defending her was a top priority for the Mustangs on Wednesday.

Horan only scored six and Osceola went without a point for more than 14 minutes.

"I really don't keep track of the points, but six? That's some defense right there," said Mitchell center Ashley Lewis, who had a lot of the responsibility to defend Horan, who recently made 10 3-pointers in a game and had 91.

Osceola (13-15) was seeking its first trip to the playoffs since 1986. With only five teams in 6A-10 and having beaten Mitchell in overtime three weeks ago, the odds weren't bad.

But the Warriors were simply off, making just 4 of 21 from long distance. With they were being shut out in the second quarter, Mitchell wasn't doing much better until it scored five points late in the half to lead 14-6.

"It's hard not to look at the scoreboard and go 'Yeesh, we only have 14.' But they only had six," Mitchell coach Jacob Tavo said. "I think we wore them down on defense."

Lewis finished with a team-high 14 points, and she added seven rebounds, five of them on the offensive glass in the first half.

Brooke Sponheimer battled through injuries to lead Osceola with 15 points.

Times correspondent Darek Sharp contributed to this report.

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