A good pressure defense and big scoring by Stacy Mayer and Lynette DeVaughn lifted Crystal River to a 59-49 victory over Lecanto on Friday night in the Class 2A, District 8 girls basketball tournament.
The victory sends the third-seeded Pirates (10-12) against top seed Wildwood tonight at 7 in the tournament's championship game. The Wildcats (18-4) shook off a lethargic effort in the first half of Friday's early semifinal and defeated Dunnellon 59-43.
"We had some intensity in the first quarter, and that carried over for a while," Crystal River coach Jere DeFoor said. "In the third quarter, I was concerned because we lost our legs, so we pulled back a bit and held (the ball) to catch our breath. But it was our intensity and the press that got us off and running."
The Pirates rolled to a 10-2 lead after Regennia Hood of Lecanto (12-11) hit the game's first basket. DeVaughn had a basket, steal and assist during the spurt.
Lecanto fought back to within 14-9 with 1:31 left in the first quarter, when Michelle Stens got tangled up while rebounding under the Pirates' basket and took an elbow in the face. She went to the floor in pain. When play continued, Panthers coach Ron Allan came off the bench in an effort to stop the action so he could check on Stens' injury.
Game officials slapped Allan with two technical fouls in quick succession, the second for an unfavorable comment. Mayer went to the foul line for Crystal River and canned all four shots to put her team up by nine.
The two teams played fairly even basketball thereafter, but the Panthers' inability to hit consistently from the foul line hurt. Lecanto free-throw shooters were 8-for-26 on the night.
"We've only been shooting 50 percent of our free throws all year, and we didn't do a very good job tonight," Allan said. "If we didn't turn the ball over against their pressure the way we did, it would have been a little easier. They (Crystal River) did a good job of converting off the steal."
Mayer finished with 22 points. DeVaughn had 19 points, 11 rebounds and six steals for the Pirates.
Melinda Burns topped Lecanto with 13 points. Stens, who missed about four minutes of playing time following the injury, finished with 11 points.
Wildwood did not play like a No. 1 seed at the outset of its game. The Wildcats trailed throughout the first 15 minutes, before moving to a six-point lead in the final minute of the first half.
In the first four minutes of the third quarter, Wildwood scored eight straight points to pull ahead 36-22.
Four Wildcats scored in double digits.