PORT ST. LUCIE — St. Petersburg's hopes of making a first appearance in the state semifinals came down to free throws against Treasure Coast on Saturday night.
Tied with less than a minute to play in the Class 8A region final, the Titans converted all four of their free throws while the Green Devils could not in a 54-50 Treasure Coast win.
"Free throws were big in this game," St. Petersburg coach Tamika Coley said. "We probably shot evenly from the floor but their free-throw percentage was probably better. It's tough to beat somebody that way."
The Green Devils (21-7) were close to upsetting the Titans (19-6). An effective full-court press and the scoring of Lazasha Baskins (13 points) and Jordan Berenbaum (10 points) kept St. Petersburg ahead the first half.
And when Treasure Coast started the second half on an 8-2 run and took a four point lead, the Green Devils chipped away. By the end of the third quarter, the Green Devils only trailed 34-32 and continued to hang around in the fourth quarter.
Treasure Coast built a six-point lead two minutes into the fourth, aided by a Yasmine Queen 3-pointer. But Michael LaShon Everhart hit a 3-pointer of her own and got fouled for a four-point play to cut the lead to 43-41.
The score was then tied three times, including 50-50 with under a minute to play. That's when the free throws became a factor.
Baskins missed the front end of a one-and-one. Simone Wilson then fouled Rose Marie Julien with 20 seconds left. Julien made both shots to make it 52-50.
With seven seconds left, Wilson was fouled away from the basket. After a timeout, Wilson missed the one-and-one and Treasure Coast rebounded.
A quick foul with five seconds left put Julien on the line again. She made both shots to put the game out of reach.
"We were playing pressure defense, pretty good pressure defense I thought, but that's up to the discretion of the ref," Coley said. "I thought we were doing a good job but they thought we were blocking and hand checking. I feel like when you get down to the elite eight you need to let them play. If we would've gotten a few of those calls I would've been a happy person."
Treasure Coast coach Roger Dorio was impressed with St. Petersburg, especially Baskins.
"We thought we knew about St. Pete until they came out and jumped our butts," Dorio said. "We had no idea that (Baskins) was as good as she was. Everyone we talked to said you need to cut her off and we didn't. We tried to make her an All-American in just one half."