Girls region soccer
River Ridge 2, Mitchell 1 (OT): River Ridge is headed to the Class 3A region championship.
After failing in five previous second-round matchups, including each of the past three seasons, the Royal Knights broke through by defeating its nemesis.
Junior Kendra Secrest took a pass from Kelsey Leach and got behind the Mitchell defense before putting away the winner from 12 yards out in the second overtime.
“This is a big deal to get past (the second round),’’ coach Skip Glover said. “We try not to pay attention that (the previous lack of success), they just know they want to keep playing.”
The Royal Knights, winners of 10 of 11, will take on Eustis.
One of the best girls soccer rivalries in Tampa Bay was played like every other meeting between the team in recent years — tightly.
After a first-half deadlock, Nicole Screnock gave River Ridge the lead by scoring off a crossing pass, and Mitchell’s Amanda Hays tied it with six minutes remaining, outdribbling two defenders and slipping a shot low past keeper Lisa Jadick.
It was the fourth game between the teams this season, each one decided by a goal, and the third 2-1 score.
“It’s an old rivalry and it was a very even game like it always is,’’ said Mitchell coach Karl Kukec. “It always comes down to one mistake. Tonight, we ended up on the short end of it.’’
It was the third straight season the Royal Knights have knocked Mitchell out of the postseason, having done so in the first round the previous two. But after getting no further from 2009-2011, the Royal Knights found a way.
Eustis 5, Nature Coast 2: The Sharks struck first, but not nearly often enough as Eustis used a big second half to advance to the Class 3A region final.
Despite a heroic effort from goalkeeper Samantha Oliveira, Eustis broke open a tight contest with three goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
“They are very good,’’ coach Lisa Masserio said. “They are strong and have lots of speed. We were handling them pretty well early, and it was 1-1 at halftime. But it went to like 3-1, we were just…I don’t know, tired, or maybe just feeling that was a big hole to dig out of.’’
Silvana Paonessa gave Nature Coast a 1-0 lead, scoring to the far post after Paige Kuhn was able to slot a ball through the defense.
But it was all Eustis from there.
Boys district soccer
Sunlake 3, Land O’Lakes 2: The Seahawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead and held on late to earn the Class 3A-7 championship and knock off rival Land O’Lakes.
“Big win for us,” Sunlake coach Sam Koleduk said.
Terry St. Onge scored two quick goals, and freshman Connor Spencer added the other before Land O’Lakes battled back. The Gators scored once in the closing minutes of the first half and tacked on the second midway through the second half.
The Seahawks were down to their third-string goalkeeper, sophomore Tommy Koen, after a knee injury and illness knocked out the other two. Koleduk said Koen made some pivotal saves in reserve.
“To beat Land O’Lakes like that?” Koleduk said. “It was nuts.”
Ridgewood 54, Zephyrhills 19: Tristan Ficarro scored 10 points, and Max Livingstone had eight as Ridgewood rolled. The Rams led the Bulldogs 41-8 at halftime and coasted. The Rams' third straight win improved them to 12-10 on the season.
Gulf 49, Fivay 36: The Bucs snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Sharks as Joe Nickerson led the way with 17 points and Aaron Welch added 10.
Wesley Chapel 72, Anclote 66: The Wildcats got 30 points from Eric Thomas and 21 from Sasha Mentor to beat Anclote in a Class 5A, District 8 game. The Wildcats, in first place in the district, withstood a strong effort by Anclote guards Brandon McWhorter (27) and Chris Gregory (21), who combined for 48 points and made eight 3-pointers for the Sharks.
Gulf 41, River Ridge 29: The Royal Knights held the Bucs to their second-lowest output of the season, but their offense also struggled as they saw their seven-game win streak snapped. Kadejah Huggins-Saunders had a game-high 15 points as Gulf outscored River Ridge 18-8 in the second half and held it to just one basket in the fourth quarter. The Bucs ended their regular season on a 13-game winning streak.
Standout performances from Friday night
Erik Thomas, Wesley Chapel: Star junior exploded for 30 points in a 72-66 win over Anclote.
Silvana Paonessa, Nature Coast: Junior had 15 saves, playing through a thigh bruise suffered in the first half. With no experienced backup, there was no way Paonessa was letting a painful injury stop her from playing, said coach Lisa Masserio.
Kendra Secrest, River Ridge: Junior scored the winner, her 20th of the year, to beat rival Mitchell in the region semis.
Greg Alves, Fivay: Speedy sophomore scored on a dazzling breakaway to provide insurance in a 2-0 win over Gulf.
Joseph Nickerson, Gulf: Sophomore guard scored 17 points to lead the Bucs to a win over Fivay.
Michael Szafranski, Springstead: Scored twice, giving him three goals in his past two games and 11 on the season.
Tommy Koen, Sunlake: Third-string keeper and football kicker allowed only two goals and made some key saves.
Jamal Branco, Hudson: Guard scored 22 points, lifting the Cobras to a 68-49 win over Pasco
By the numbers
7 Points scored by Ridgewood basketball players Tony Hays, Adam Ibrahim, Thomas Rodriguez and Marcus Green
11 3-pointers made by Hudson in win over Pasco
27 Points by Anclote’s Brandon McWhorter in a loss to Wesley Chapel
Making soccer history
* River Ridge’s girls team advanced to its first region final ever by beating Mitchell.
* Sunlake’s boys district title means the Seahawks will host next week’s region quarterfinal. It’s the first time the school will host a playoff game.
* Fivay’s district championship was the first ever for the second-year boys program.
* Springstead’s boys team clinched its first district title in eight years.
* Land O’Lakes’ boys team settled for second in District 3A-7, snapping the Gators’ streak of seven consecutive district crowns.
“Honestly, if you’ve seen one of our games, you’ve seen them all.’’ Mitchell girls soccer coach Karl Kukec on the close nature of River Ridge-Mitchell games, which are almost always decided by one goal.