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Ribault wins 2nd consecutive 3A state crown

Senior guard Claudrena Harold didn't just want to win another state title.She wanted to go out in style.

That's exactly what she and her teammates did Saturday night as Harold led Jacksonville Ribault's explosive attack in the fourth quarter to turn a close game into a lopsided 72-54 victory and the Trojans' second consecutive Class 3A girls state title.

"We take a lot of pride in our press and ability to score and they kept on sticking around and making it tough," said Harold, who scored a game-high 28 points and had 15 assists. "We just wanted to go out in the last quarter and play like we are capable of playing."

In Saturday's other title games, Fort Walton Beach won the Class 5A title, beating Miami Norland 57-48, and Quincy Munroe edged Graceville 39-36 for the Class A championship.

Ribault displayed its court savvy, quickness and sheer power in the final quarter after Suncoast (28-4) was trailing 49-46 after three quarters. It was the 62nd consecutive victory for the Trojans (30-0). During the season, Ribault disposed of opponents by an average margin of 30 points and went over the 100-point barrier 12 times.

But Saturday, Suncoast used its own half-court press and fast break to stay even with Ribault through three quarters. Suncoast took its only lead of the game near the end of the third quarter on Alicia Doherty's three-pointer. But the senior combination of Harold and Kim Gallon (15 points) began to take control, penetrating the lane and finding the open player.

"They were doing a terrific job of shutting us down," said Ribault coach Al Austin, who has won three state titles in the last seven years and compiled a 450-43 record in 17 years. "We just had to get tougher defensively."

Ribault outscored Suncoast 14-2 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to take a decisive lead.

"We've never doubted our ability," Gallon said. "And the final quarter just proved what we can do as a team and have been doing for two years."

D'Shawn Watts contributed 17 points for Ribault while Latonya Herbert scored 13 for Suncoast.

For Munroe, Junior Jill Pohto scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.

In a tight defensive struggle, it was Munroe's stiff defense that thwarted Graceville's size and strength and helped the Cats overcome a nine-point halftime deficit.

"We knew we had to make something happen when we went into the locker room at halftime," said Pohto, who coverted four free throws down the stretch to seal the victory for Munroe. "We didn't want to play desperate in the fourth quarter."

Munroe (27-7) didn't have to as its relentless defense forced numerous turnovers and slowed Graceville's attack throughout the second half. It held Graceville (23-7) to 14 points in the second half. It marked the first state title for Quincy Munroe and the first for Susie Morris in her 13-year coaching career. Graceville was coming off an emotional double-overime 63-61 win over Northside Christian on Thursday night.

SATURDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIPS

Class A: Quincy Munroe 39, Graceville 36

Class 3A: Jax Ribault 72, Riviera Beach Suncoast 54

Class 5A: Fort Walton Beach 57, Miami Norland 48

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