ZEPHYRHILLS — Land O’ Lakes and host Zephyrhills advanced to Friday night’s Class 5A, District 6 championship game with semifinal wins on Wednesday. The Gators opened with a 64-47 win over Fivay before the Bulldogs defeated Springstead 62-57.
Zephyrhills and Land O’ Lakes were in different districts last season with the district runnerup Bulldogs bowing out of the playoffs in a region quarterfinal and the district champion Gators advancing to the region semifinals. Land O’ Lakes swept a two-game series from Zephyrhills this season.
In the first game, Fivay (16-9) kept it close against top seed Land O’ Lakes — for a half, anyway. Tied at 22, the Gators (20-5) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run that started with driving layup and subsequent free throw by Chase Farmer.
“That was the kick start in the second half,” Land O’ Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said of that 3-point play during the third in which the Gators outscored the Falcons 29-12.
Mekhi Perry scored a game-high 22 points and Farmer added 18 for the Gators with Puhalski saying that Perry could have done a lot more damage on the offensive end of the court.
“Our barometer is how Mekhi’s playing,” the coach said.
Eric Howard and Deondrae St. Clair each scored 11 for Fivay.
In the nightcap, Zephyrhills (19-7) got balanced scoring with four players in double figures. Gavyn Dorsey had a team-leading 15 with the Bulldogs getting 12 apiece from Austin Linville, Kevin Pagan and Dontae Marchman.
Second seed Zephyrhills led from the outset, maintaining an eight-point margin after the second and third quarters before Springstead (17-8) made a late run on the strength of David Battle’s inside scoring. Battle had 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second half.
Also scoring mostly from under the basket was Springstead’s Unique Torain, who finished with 11.
Afterward, Zephyrhills coach Mike Novak was not quite as enamored with Dorsey’s scoring as he was for the defensive job he did in holding down Torain, who lost the ball inside on several occasions.
“The story was his defense on No. 1,” Novack said of Dorsey’s play against Torain. “We couldn’t take him out of the game.”