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Plant City loses in district semis

Becky Perez and Latoya Williams combined for 47 points to leadLakeland-Lake Gibson to a 72-62 upset win over Plant City in the semifinals of the Class 4A, District 5 basketball tournament Friday night.

Lake Gibson will meet Lakeland, which defeated host East Bay 54-46 in finals tonight at 7:30 p.m. Lake Gibson, 23-7 and ranked No. 10 in the state, took a 34-29 halftime lead as Perez scored 14 of her game-high 26 points in the first half.

In the second half, it was Williams who provided the offensive spark by scoring 12 of her 21 points.

Plant City, 22-2 and ranked No. 3 in the state, trailed by as many as 15 points, cut the lead to six on two occasions behind the scoring of Rojina Micher (20 points) and Jill Woodbury (15). The Raiders could not get any closer.

"Their man-to-man defense scared me," Plant City coach Chipper Bills said. "We haven't seen much of that all year. I have five talented kids but they start going one-on-one when people go to a man-to-man."

Class 4A, District 6: Carlyn Esslinger scored 12 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning basket with 14 seconds left, as Gaither overcame a late deficit to take a 45-42 win over Chamberlain in a semifinal game of the Class 4A, District 6 girls basketball tournament at Gaither.

In the night's other semi-final game, Hillsborough's superior size was too much for Jefferson 54-22.

The first game saw Gaither jump out to an early 8-0 advantage, but the Lady Chiefs charged back to take a 22-20 halftime lead. After seven lead changes and three ties in the second half, the game came down to the final minute.

Chamberlain, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, had taken the lead with 35 seconds remaining when Marcie Dortch knifed through two Gaither defenders on a fast break and scored to make it 42-41. Gaither then called a time out and coach Leo Haggerty diagrammed a play, which his team worked to perfection.

"We wanted to get the ball to Jenny Boggs on the wing and she was supposed to go to the basket," Haggerty said. "Her move to the basket let Esslinger get open underneath and Jenny passed it off to her for a layup, just like I drew it."

Boggs converted two free throws with four seconds left for the final margin of victory.

Top-seeded Hillsborough outrebounded No. 5 seed Jefferson 53-28 in Friday's second game.

Rhonda Bentley's game-high 18 points and 15 rebounds paced the Terriers (11-11).

- Correspondent David Brackman contributed to this report.

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