FORT MYERS — The Freedom girls basketball team worked on execution all season up until Christmas Day, and in the Patriots' first game after the holiday they perfected it.
Freedom's command was never in doubt as the Patriots easily won 57-27 over St. John Lutheran of Ocala in the opener of Emerald Division play at the Queen of the Palms tournament Thursday afternoon in Fort Myers.
Taylor Emery and Faith Woodard each scored 24 for the Patriots, who now face the winner of the late game between Palm Beach Central and Miami Monsignor Pace in the division semifinals at 8 tonight.
The Patriots jumped out to a 20-6 lead after one quarter.
Despite the lopsided final score, Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke was pleased by her team's hustle on both ends of the floor.
"I loved that intensity I saw out there," Pacholke said. "We've worked hard on executing our offense and defense all season long, and just about everything went perfectly (Thursday). We knew St. John Lutheran would be a challenge, and we were ready for it."
Aside from Woodard and Emery, Freedom needed only two other players to enter the scoring column.
Jalaysha Thomas scored 12 for the Saints.
"Everything came from our defense," Pacholke said. "Once we committed to playing defense, the offense improved immediately right after that. The most important thing on defense was that we hustled. They got after the ball and created a lot of turnovers. We were well-prepared coming into this tournament."
SEFFNER CHRistian 72, GAINESVILLE BUCHHOLZ 67: Seffner rallied in the Diamond Division thanks to timely free throw shooting by Jaitesha Hanson in the fourth and a stingy defense.
Henson scored 28, including 18 on free throws, as the Crusaders erased a 10-point deficit and beat Buchholz.
The Crusaders play at 5 p.m. today in the Diamond Division semifinals against either Ryle of Union, Ky., or Plantation American Heritage. Sabrina Whiting also chipped in 22 points.
"We came into the game focused on being disciplined," said Seffner coach Greg Fawbush. "It was a matter of executing our game plan. Davina Mounds and Chelsea Clark for Buchholz really made their shots today, but overall our defense played well. The important things for us was we scored when we needed it. We demand that players be disciplined in our program, but these girls are disciplined themselves. They show up at 6:30 a.m. in the gym every day ready to play."
In other games involving Tampa Bay-area schools, Cape Coral beat Armwood 51-16, Fort Pierce beat Tarpon Springs 74-72, Pensacola routed Tampa Bay Tech 69-32 and Clearwater topped Sarasota 34-31.