Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Girls basketball: Land O'Lakes preps for first state final four

From left, Lela Gregory, coach Phyllis Crain, Janelle Ayala and the rest of Land O’Lakes appear in the school’s first state semifinal today.


From left, Lela Gregory, coach Phyllis Crain, Janelle Ayala and the rest of Land O’Lakes appear in the school’s first state semifinal today.

LAND O'LAKES — When Pamela Andrade walked into first period Tuesday morning, two cheerleaders broke into applause. In fifth period, someone wrote, "Congratulations" on the white board.

The senior guard is a key part of the first Land O'Lakes team to reach the state semifinals. Saturday, the Gators (23-4) clawed past powerful Citrus (25-4) in the Class 5A region final 40-37.

"We have gotten great support from throughout the school," coach Phyllis Crain said. "Everyone's behind them."

The Gators practiced at USF this week to prepare for today's game against Bradenton Southeast (29-1) at The Lakeland Center. They will play in an arena and on a larger court, but Crain said they're comfortable with both.

They'll need that comfort level against Southeast.

The Seminoles' lone loss came in November, 62-50 to Sarasota, which reached the Class 7A state semifinals. Three of Land O'Lakes' losses came to district powerhouse Gulf.

The Seminoles average 56.6 points and 31.4 rebounds to the Gators' 45.6 points and 29.2 rebounds.

Southeast boasts a veteran team with only one underclassman in the starting lineup and is led in scoring by 5-foot-10 seniors DeAngela Mathis (14.9 points per game) and Keshawna Robinson (14.4).

Andrade is the only Gator who remembers what it was like in 2011, the last time Land O'Lakes made the playoffs. She was on the junior varsity as a freshman.

"I looked up to them so much," Andrade said. "It felt great to get to school, and everyone looked up to them."

In 2011, Land O'Lakes rallied around senior Shanel Sweet, the 2010-11 Tampa Bay Times' North Suncoast player of the year. She was also a mentor to many of the girls, including Andrade.

Now, Andrade said, there is no single player who draws all of the attention. Junior Jhade Hayes (13.7 points per game) is the team's top scorer followed closely by sophomore Makala Canada, senior Taylor McDonald and Andrade.

"We're a family," Andrade said. "I love these girls so much."

The crowds started smaller this season than in 2011, Andrade said, when Sweet drew many fans. But the bleachers filled as the Gators kept winning.

"I think we really wanted it," Andrade said. "I think other schools were talking bad about us, but we had that motivation."

This is Crain's first playoffs with the Gators. She took over in 2011, after Sweet graduated.

It took a little while for this season's girls to learn they could trust each other, Crain said, but once they did, "I think the girls finally came together and believed in a team effort."

Crain said it's hard to pinpoint one primary factor that makes this team different from previous Land O'Lakes ones but noted one contributing one.

"Their heart," she said. "That's what got them this far."

Mary Kenney can be reached at

.Fast facts

5A state semifinals

Today: Land O'Lakes vs. Bradenton Southeast, 10 a.m.; Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee vs. Rockledge, 11:30 a.m.

Where: The Lakeland Center

Admission: $10

Parking: $8

Girls basketball: Land O'Lakes preps for first state final four 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. USF defense feeds on Temple offense to take NCAA interceptions lead


    TAMPA — Backed up in his end zone, Temple quarterback Logan Marchi scrambled, trying to elude a USF defensive end coming straight for him. Until then, Marchi hadn't had much luck hitting his receivers.

    South Florida Bulls safety Devin Abraham (20) sacks Temple Owls quarterback Logan Marchi (12) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, September 21, 2017.
  2. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  3. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  4. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    The Rays still talk about having a shot to make the playoffs. But recognizing and correcting mistakes will help them next year, such as Mallex Smith trying to steal third in the first. "Those are the little things we've got to find how to eliminate real quick," manager Kevin Cash said.