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Zephyrhills tops Citrus in 3A-9

The Zephyrhills girls basketball team made it two in a row Saturday night, beating top-seeded Citrus 48-45 for the Class 3A, District 9 title.

The win sends the Bulldogs (25-5) to the regional round of the state playoffs for the second consecutive year. Zephyrhills plays Tuesday night at Robinson, a 45-34 winner in Saturday's District 10 final over Tampa Bay Vo-Tech.

The Bulldogs, seeded second in 3A-9, took an eight-point lead when forward Tawnya Booker scored to open the fourth quarter, but Citrus cut the lead to 44-43 with 3:41 to play on a basket by Joy Porter.

Booker scored on an offensive rebound to make it 46-43 with 3:17 left, and the Bulldogs went to a perimeter passing game to protect the lead and run time off the clock.

Citrus let them.

A traveling charge against Booker with 1:25 left gave Citrus possession. Porter then was fouled driving to the basket and hit both ends of a one-and-one to pull Citrus to within 46-45.

But again Citrus (20-4) allowed Zephyrhills to kill the clock. With only five team fouls charged against them, the Hurricanes did not commit their sixth until only 16 seconds remained. Zephyrhills inbounded the ball and ran another seven seconds off before Citrus fouled with nine seconds left.

Senior Kathy Hunka hit both free throws, forcing Citrus to try for a three-point basket. The last-second attempt failed.

"I kept expecting (Citrus) to come out harder and sooner," Zephyrhills coach Ernie Pittman said of Citrus' guards. "But I thought our kids handled it real well." The Bulldogs patiently passed the ball on the perimeter.

Citrus led 28-24 at halftime, despite playing the entire second quarter without leading scorer Porter, who was called for a technical foul that gave her three personals with 1:05 left in the first quarter.

Zephyrhills outscored Citrus 16-6 in the third quarter, when the Hurricanes tried to score from the outside rather than go inside to Porter and 6-foot-2 freshman Kristy White. The duo scored only two points in the pivotal period.

Citrus clawed back in the fourth quarter by going inside to Porter, who scored seven points and drew four fouls in the quarter. She finished with a team-high 13 points.

Booker led all scorers with 15.