HUDSON — If any questions lingered about how Gulf handled a series of offseason transfers and a coaching change, they disappeared Saturday night.
The Bucs dominated top-seeded Pasco in the Class 5A, District 6 final, cruising to a 45-34 victory that gave Gulf its fourth consecutive district championship and ruined the Pirates’ perfect record.
“It’s a whole other world right now.. …” Gulf junior Jalena Hawkins said. “We did it.”
Gulf (20-6) moves on to host Crystal River in Thursday’s region quarterfinal. Pasco (21-1) will travel to Tavares.
First-year Gulf coach Clare Ennis said her team held something back in the teams’ two previous meetings — two double-digit Pasco wins. This time, Gulf controlled the game from the start, jumping to a 16-5 lead and holding Pasco scoreless for almost nine minutes.
The Pirates missed 23 of their 26 shots in the first half and finished with their second-lowest scoring output of the season.
“It’s better to happen now. …” Pasco coach Troy Moore said. “This is a big awakening for all of us.”
The Pirates hung around by holding Gulf star Kayla Kivinski to 11 points and 15 rebounds — her third-worst offensive night of the season. Pasco forced four turnovers in the first 1:21 of the second half to make the game close, and Allahon Marbra’s layup with 5:47 left in the third cut Gulf’s lead to 24-17.
But the balanced Bucs pulled away. All five Gulf starters scored between six and 13 points. Hawkins led her team with 13 points and six steals, followed by Tatiana Summers (eight points), Syann Julian (seven) and Lyndsey Hetrick (six).
“Everyone thinks we are a one-girl show,” Ennis said, “and we have five girls on the court that can score at any time.”
Marbra led Pasco with 14 points, and junior post Ashley Webster added six points and 10 rebounds.
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.