Lecanto outshot Crystal River early Tuesday night then hung on through a Pirate rally for a 57-45 victory in Class 4A, District 9 play.
Lecanto (8-6 overall, 5-1 district) took advantage of Crystal River's disorganized defense early, scoring 17 points in the first quarter.
The second quarter was equally mismatched, with the Panthers holding the Pirates to 8 points. Crystal River faced a 22-point halftime deficit.
The second half was a different story.
Crystal River came out strong, pressing on defense and limiting Lecanto's ability to score in the third quarter. Crystal River's Setera Lockley led the Pirates with 11 points in the second half.
With a 20-point lead heading into the fourth, the Panthers fought against a fierce defense.
"Their defensive pressure in the fourth quarter was impressive, and we just didn't respond," Lecanto coach Ron Allan said.
The Panthers, led by Melissa Foraker's 20 points, approached the final minutes with the Pirates close on their heels.
After playing strong defense much of the game, Tara Haddock finally got going offensively in the second half, scoring five points to bring her game total to nine.
With just more than a minute left Crystal River's Ja'vonna Grimsley, who scored 14, fouled out. Foraker hit free throws and Lecanto hung on despite allowing 34 points in the second half.
In their coach's mind, however, it was a bittersweet win. Ever the perfectionist, Allan was pleased with their performance, but ready to make changes.
"I thought we played hard," Allan said, "We just didn't play smart in the second half."
No matter his mentality, though, Allan couldn't hide the smile.
"It's good to beat an in-county team," he said.