TAMPA — Academy of the Holy Names came into Tuesday's matchup against Gibbs wanting to dictate the pace of the game. Gibbs, meanwhile, wanted to use its strong defensive press to force turnovers.
Both squads had their moments in a seesaw affair highlighted by seven lead changes. But the Gladiators made the final lead change the most important with a press-lead rally during the game's final moments for a 46-43 win in the semifinal of the Jaguar Holiday Tournament.
Gibbs will face Plant in the tonight's tournament championship game. Plant, which had four players score in double figures, advanced with a 57-41 win against Nature Coast. The Panthers got 14 points from Kelly Brennan and 11 from Michelle Taylor.
After AHN opened with a 17-11 first-quarter advantage, Gibbs whittled down the Jaguars' advantage and took a two-point lead into halftime. The teams traded leads until the fourth when AHN seemingly seized control, going up 41-32 with 6:40 left.
But the Gladiators' frantic press forced three successive turnovers and as many baskets as Gibbs jumped right back into the game. And when Fahran Franklin banked in a 3-point shot with a little more than a minute left, Gibbs took the lead for good.
AHN had two possessions during the final moments but could not produce any points.
Franklin finished with 15 points while Shineice Beamon scored 17 for Gibbs. AHN was led by Selena Castillo's 17.
"Once again our press really made a difference," Gibbs coach Angela Meiser said. "Down the stretch we keep our intensity and were able to force turnovers. We expected a challenge and this was a good test."