DOVER — Much like the last time Tampa Bay Tech and Strawberry Crest met in the regular season — when the Chargers beat their district rival by 24 points — Strawberry Crest stole the show in Thursday's Class 7A, District 7 championship.
The Chargers were hot early. But in the second quarter the Titans, not willing to hand off the trophy so soon, hit shot after shot and trailed by just two going into halftime. During the break, Strawberry Crest coach La'Tosha Lewis had an important question for her team.
"She told us, 'Y'all just going to let them come in and win in y'all house? Embarrass y'all in y'all house? Celebrate on y'all court?,' " Maiya Trigg said. "And we didn't like it."
Bound to not let it happen, the Chargers came out in the second half on a mission to win their first district championship, and despite its two leading scorers' late foul trouble, Strawberry Crest got it done, beating Tampa Bay Tech 59-50.
Tampa Bay Tech (22-5) coach Reggie Lawrence said after Tuesday's semifinal that his team needed to curb its turnovers to have a chance at beating the Chargers (24-4) for the first time this season. But in the first quarter, the Titans had trouble holding onto the ball.
Strawberry Crest took advantage and ended the first quarter on a 12-3 run with a 22-7 lead.
In the second quarter, however, Kirtisha Nelson had 14 of her team-high 24 points for TBT, including a pair of 3s at the end of the half. Strawberry Crest went into the locker room with a 29-27 lead.
Heeding their coach's advice, the Chargers picked it up after the break. Aliyah Gregory, who led the Chargers with 20 points, scored nine in the third quarter, picking up the slack after Trigg, who finished with 16, was benched after acquiring a fourth foul.
"I'm just so proud of my girls," said Lewis, wiping away tears. "They came out and just fought, fought, fought. These are tears of joy because we deserve it."
Class 3A-7: At Bishop McLaughlin, Carrollwood Day upset Tampa Prep 42-40 to earn its first state playoff berth.
Tampa Prep (11-12) jumped out to a 15-6 lead, but little by little the Patriots (8-6) chipped away.
"I just kept telling the girls to keep their composure," first-year CDS coach George Kimble said. "If we played in the flow of the game, I knew we could get back into it."
Three of the Terps' best players — Isa Cura (15 points, five rebounds), Daniella Reina (10 points, nine rebounds) and Alana Tucker (eight points, six rebounds) — all picked up fourth fouls in the middle of the fourth quarter.
While Tampa Prep coach Justin Smith kept them on the floor, a lack of aggressiveness made the team less effective down the stretch. Eighth-grader Aniya Buie (13 points, eight rebounds) stepped to the forefront for the CDS offense.
The score was still tied 40-all going into the final minute. A couple missed opportunities from both sides gave CDS the ball with less than 10 seconds left. Buie drove the lane and kicked out to a wide open Nicole Ianni (six points, 10 rebounds), who knocked down the 15-foot jumper to clinch the win.
"I just kept thinking about what (Kimble) told us in practice," Ianni said. "Catch with two hands and take your shot."
In the second game, Seffner Christian (21-5), a state final four participant two of the past three years, cruised to a 71-26 win over host Bishop McLaughlin (15-9). Seffner went up 15-0 right after the opening tip. A loose ball 3-pointer from Bishop McLaughlin guard Brielle Downing ended the run, but that was it for the Hurricane offense.
Seffner had three players in double figures before the half, including Peyton Walker (17 points, nine rebounds), Ally Parimore (10 points, seven rebounds) and Sabrina Whiting (27 points, eight rebounds, six steals).
Derek J. LaRiviere, Times correspondent