WESLEY CHAPEL — Karim Nohra emerged from the visiting locker room with sweat still beading on his head.
"Round Two goes to Wesley Chapel," the Wildcats' coach said with a hint of exhaustion.
The reference was to Friday night's emotional 47-42 win against rival Gulf. The Buccaneers won the first meeting 47-37 on Dec. 3.
Nohra tried to dismiss the victory because it bears no significance on the postseason. But it was the first time in three meetings one of Nohra's teams defeated Gulf, a program long considered the county bench mark.
What Nohra wanted to point out was the way Wesley Chapel rebounded from a 10-point deficit with less than two minutes in the third quarter.
"We fought out of that 10-point deficit," Nohra said. "The win is great, but it was the fact they came back, fought and gave me a lead in the fourth quarter."
One key was challenging Gulf's intimidating frontline of Leighlani Paselio, Asia Spencer and Kianna Mills. The aggressive strategy helped Wesley Chapel (17-1) go on a 16-0 run while Gulf (17-4) went on a scoring drought of more than six minutes.
Wesley Chapel senior Shantel Houston led the charge with a team-high 18 points. Wildcats junior Hannah Noble added 10.
Another key was holding Gulf leading scorer Nicole Adams to four of her game-high 20 in the fourth quarter.
And after the Wildcats took their first lead in the fourth quarter on a jumper by freshman Simone Brown to make it 38-36, they pushed the lead to four fighting off extremely physical defense.
One last question Nohra had for an assistant coach was about free throws. The Wildcats were 8-of-10, a vast improvement over 4-for-17 in the last meeting.
"We already knew we could beat them," Houston said.