Leann Cornwell, despite spending a healthy portion of the game on thesidelines in foul trouble, scored 18 points to lead Central to a 52-44
first-round victory over Bushnell-South Sumter in the Class 2A, District 9 tournament Thursday at Dunnellon.
Central, the No. 3 seed, will meet No. 2 Wildwood in one semi-final tonight at 6 p.m. Fourth-seeded Dunnellon, a 46-30 first-round winner over No. 5 Crystal River, will meet top-seeded Lecanto in the other semi-final at 8 p.m. The championship game is Saturday at 7 p.m. Central was without Cornwell and fellow post-player Maria Jiminez for most of the final period, but weathered a 19-point fourth quarter effort by South Sumter.
The Bears (13-11) got their biggest lead at 21 points, 46-25, at the start of the fourth quarter, but gave the Raiders an opportunity when Jiminez fouled out with 5:50 left and Cornwell picked up her fourth.
South Sumter (2-21) out-scored Central 17-4 over the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, closing the gap to six, 48-42 with 1:40 left. But Cornwell made four free throws in the final 1:05 to squelch the Raiders' run.
"We have no rebounding without Maria and Leann," Central coach Joy Greene said. "We're very little without them."
The evening's nightcap between Dunnellon and Crystal River started
sloppily, with the Tigers leading 18-8 at the half. A 14-point third quarter gave Dunnellon (11-11) an 18-point lead, 32-14.
Dunnellon point guard Candy Prescott opened the fourth quarter with a three-point basket that gave the Tigers their largest lead, 21 points at 35-14. Prescott led all scorers with 20.
The sizeable victory margin allowed Tigers coach Archie Bankston to rest some of his starters for tonight's meeting with Lecanto.
"Everybody stays with them (the Panthers) through the third quarter and then the lights go out," Bankston said. "Their numbers start to wear on you. They've got 12 they use.
"If we can score inside we'll have a chance, but that's the only way. We can't just go with our outside shooting game and have a chance."