OCALA — Just as it was about to be swept out of the gym by Ocala Forest in the District 5A-7 championship match, Central battled back and nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback.
The Bears were two points from being finished after three games, but closed Game 3 with a 7-0 run then rode the momentum to take the next game before they ran out of gas.
Forest (16-10) made an 8-1 run to start Game 5 stand up and held off a late charge by Central in a 25-19, 25-15, 23-25, 22-25, 15-10 win Thursday night at Ocala West Port.
"I've never been more proud of a team in a loss," Bears coach Emily Gore said. "I wanted them to show some fight, and they did."
Central's run in Game 3 started on a kill by Raqurra Ishmar (10 kills) and silenced the partisan crowd.
From there, the Bears (13-8) built as much as a six-point lead in Game 4 but saw the Wildcats battle back to 22-all.
Central, though, ended the game on a 3-0 spurt, but started slow in Game 5 and trailed by as many as eight points.
Once again, the Bears battled back and closed to within 14-10, but Forest finally ended things on a kill by Allee Steologeannis.
Quynn Fonesca added seven kills and nine blocks for Central, while Carly Territo and Kiley Bierwiler combined for 27 assists.
The Bears will visit the winner between Armwood and Newsome on Tuesday night in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.