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SPC squeaks into final

Something about St. Petersburg Catholic is so different from other teams.

The Barons win not by playing classic, film-library basketball, but by playing ugly, by grinding their opponents, then gleefully vacuuming up the pieces.

On Wednesday, St. Petersburg Catholic didn't always look nice, and sure enough, it won, rallying to beat Miami Gulliver Prep 40-38 in the Class 3A semifinals at the Lakeland Center.

The Barons (28-2) face Florida High on Friday at 3:30. This is the second time SPC has been in the championship game. The Barons lost in their 2000 appearance.

"We've played in a couple of games like this before," SPC coach Nick Vandewalle said. "We're used to games being a little physical, being a little ugly."

It took awhile, but that style disrupted the Raiders' top player, De'sha Mosley.

The senior point guard had her special moments during the game. Her 21 points led all players and she tied with two others for most assists (five) and steals (five) in the game.

In the first half, she scored 10 and helped Gulliver Prep (25-5) take a 16-4 lead.

"We knew (Mosley) was a good player," Vandewalle said. "We knew that stopping her was the key. She started hot, and our girls started paying more attention to her."

For the rest of the half, Mosley was swimming alone against the tide, hoping against hope that one of her teammates would at least wave a life preserver at her. None of them did.

Thanks to its stifling defense, SPC outscored the Raiders 18-0 the rest of the half to go ahead 22-16.

"It seemed like (the Barons) were always around me," Mosley said. "They were triple-teaming me. It was hard."

With most of SPC's other post players in foul trouble, Sasha Chaplin stepped up. The sophomore transfer from Admiral Farragut scored a team-high 14 and led all players with 17 rebounds.

"I knew I was going to have to give it my all," Chaplin said. "It's the state semifinals and I would be crying if we were going home."

The Barons never relinquished their lead in the second half but had to hold on tight at the end to win. Key 3-pointers by Kate Carl and Shannon McElhaney helped SPC hold off Gulliver Prep rallies. The game ended on a steal by McElhaney.

"This one was tense," McElhaney said. "We had to pull it out with defense. Hopefully, we can do it again on Friday."