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Auburndale upsets Plant, will face Haines City in final

Third seeded Auburndale (16-5) upset the No. 2-seeded Plant Panthers58-56 in the semifinals of the Class 3A, District 8 girls basketball

tournament Friday night at Lake Wales.

Down 56-54 with 10 seconds remaining in the game, Plant's Cicely Powell made a layup to tie the score at 56-56, before the Bloodhounds drove the length of the court and scored on a Cheryl Neeley layup as the buzzer sounded.

In other semifinal action, top-seeded Haines City breezed into the final with a 63-37 victory over No. 4-seeded Tampa Bay Vo-Tech (11-11). The Hornets (19-3) were led by senior guard Veronica Dell and sophomore guard Heather Reed who had 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Haines City will take on Auburndale tonight at 8 p.m. at Lake Wales for the championship. The two teams have met three times during the regular season, with Haines City winning all three.

Lakeesha Mitchell led the Bloodhounds' attack with 22 points and 24 rebounds. Ten of Mitchell's points came in the second quarter as Aubrundale came back from a 15-10 first quarter deficit to narrow the Panthers lead to 31-30 at halftime.

Auburndale's full-court press and scrappy defense helped the Bloodhounds to a 41-31 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Panthers rallied back to within one, 44-43, going into the fourth and final period.

Junior forward Teresa Stokes of Plant had 22 points and 15 rebounds before she checked out of the game with five fouls, four of which were offensive.

Class A, District 9: Tampa Prep and Lakeland Christian were the semifinal winners in the girls Class A, District 9 basketball tournament, at Bayshore Christian.

Lakeland Christian was an easy winner over Temple Heights in the first game, 60-44, while Tampa Prep pulled off a miracle in the fourth quarter to up-end rival Berkeley Prep 58-57.

The Terrapins and Vikings will meet Friday night to decide the tournament championship.

In the first game, Temple Heights (8-8), jumped out to a surprising 14-4 lead before falling prey to a Viking press that shut out the Eagles for over 14 minutes.

During that time Lakeland (14-12), scored 25 straight points to go up 29-14, and had little problem holding on the rest of the way.

In the second game, Tampa Prep (20-3), was hampered by early foul trouble, and was hammered by a monstrous performance from Buc senior center Merril Mullins.

Mullins was unstoppable through the first three quarters, and would finish the night with 34 points.

But thanks to poor foul-shooting by Berkeley (11-50), the Terrapins were able to hang close, even though 5 of their top 7 players fouled out.

At the end of the third quarter the Bucs were up by 10, but Tampa Prep made up the difference behind Darci Oaks' 11 fourth quarter points, including the winning free throw with 13 seconds left "Our press and our depth won it," fired-up Terrapin coach Craig Keeler said. "Darci really came through for us, but she's always been a good shooter."

The tournament final will be played at 7:30, on Bayshore Christians' home court.

Class 2A, District 11: It took host Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney three overtimes to beat Tampa Catholic 52-50 and reach today's 2A-11 final.

Clearwater Central Catholic escaped after a close call in regulation.

CCC squeaked by Palmetto 34-33. Michelle Martinez hit two free throws with 1:20 left in the game to give CCC a 34-31 lead.

The Marauders had beaten Palmetto twice this season, but the Crusaders couldn't get going and the game was close the entire way.

CCC's Holly Soles only had two baskets, but both were three-pointers, and both were when Palmetto seemed to be getting the upper-hand. Soles' baskets helped keep the spark in an otherwise lackluster performance by CCC.

Cardinal Mooney's Kate Hallman hit a basket with eleven seconds left in the first overtime to tie it up.

- Correspondents Rob McGinty and Steven Gotfried contributed to this report.

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