Girls basketball region semifinals
All games at 7 tonight
5A, Tampa Bay Tech (23-3) at Ocala West Port (22-6): The Titans continue to win, but have yet to put together a complete game. They trailed Central by six late in the first half and needed an 18-0 run to win 58-45 in Thursday's region quarterfinals. The senior-laden Titans can run the floor with nearly anybody with Dasia Daniels (team-high 14.5 ppg), LeRia Jenrette(7.6 apg) and Jasmine Rodriguez (10.9 ppg, 13.5 rpg). But if TBT is going to advance to its first region final, it has to be fluid from start to finish, especially against West Port, a full-court pressure team that forced 27 Durant turnovers in a 44-33 win.
The pick: TBT
5A, Hillsborough (14-9) at Sickles (24-3): History would indicate the Gryphons are on their way to the first region final in school history. Sickles has beaten Hillsborough three times this season, though the past two wins were by just three and seven points. Sickles' hopes begin and end with 6-foot-4 All-America junior Amber Henson, who had 33 points, seven rebounds and five blocks against Naples Gulf Coast in the region quarters. The Gryphons have been getting good play from sophomore point guard Bre Crum, who shot 9-for-15 from the field and scored 19 against Gulf Coast. The Terriers trailed Venice after three quarters but put together a 23-8 fourth-quarter run to win 60-47. Hillsborough hasn't been to the region final since 1994.
The pick: Sickles
4A, Lakewood (21-5) at Jefferson (26-3): Coach Tom Mosca took Jefferson to the region final for the first time in school history last season. Now playing in Class 4A, the Dragons, winners of 14 straight, have a good shot at making their first tournament. First they face a Lakewood team that throttled Spoto 72-37 in the region quarterfinals. Jefferson won its opening-round game convincingly, beating Lakewood Ranch 62-28. Laurie Beaty had 12 points, one of three Dragons in double figures, and five steals while Jade Givens had eight assists and eight steals. Beaty, a junior, has been the Dragons' most consistent player (15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 2.2 assists) and will be the focus of a stingy Lakewood defense. Taye'lor Trotter (17 points) was one of four double-figure scorers against Spoto.
The pick: Jefferson
3A, St. Petersburg Catholic (20-4) at Tampa Catholic (26-2): The good news for Tampa Catholic is that after tonight it won't have to face SPC scoring sensation Jerica Coley anymore. The bad news is the Crusaders do have to face her tonight. In fact, this might be Tampa Catholic's toughest test to a repeat trip to the state tournament. The Crusaders have won 20 of 21, their only loss to SPC on Jan. 20. TC beat Lakeland McKeel 57-25 in the region quarterfinals, with Colette Eule and Sarah Brennan scoring 14 each. Tampa Catholic's key to success will be defense, namely stopping Coley. She has averaged 31.3 points in three games against the Crusaders, but TC has won two of the three, including a 67-66 overtime win in the district title game less than two weeks ago.
The pick: Tampa Catholic
A, Seffner Christian (17-8) at Bradenton Christian (25-3): The Crusaders are going for their second region final berth in two years. In their 46-44 win over Lakeland Victory Christian, Alexandra Hagel led Seffner with 19 points, including 3-of-4 free throws in the final 16 seconds to give the Crusaders the lead and preserve it late. Sabrina Whiting hit four 3-pointers and added 14 points. Bradenton Christian had an easier path, beating Avon Park Walker Memorial 65-36, running out to a 22-5 lead. Maria DeKuiper led BCS with 25 points and seven rebounds in just more than a half of play.
The pick: Bradenton Christian
A, Cambridge (16-8) at Keswick Christian (16-8): This will be the third time these teams meet and Keswick has won both, by 18 on Jan. 19 and by five in the district title game on Feb. 5. Chachere Moore led Cambridge with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the last meeting. Rachel Bode led the Lancers in their region quarterfinal win over Naples First Baptist, scoring a game-high 21 in a 44-39 victory. Keswick advanced with a 54-47 win over Sarasota Christian. Cassie Foster led the Crusaders with 23 points.
The pick: Keswick Christian
Eduardo A. Encina, Times staff writer