ST. PETERSBURG — Now it’s 86 wins and counting.
Over four years at Keswick Christian, that's how many times the six seniors on the girls basketball squad have emerged victorious, an impressive extended run of success. Over the past three years, the sextet's mark is an even more eye-popping 75-12.
And this total has the opportunity to increase even more, because with Wednesday's smothering 50-24 victory over Ave Maria Donahue Catholic, the Crusaders will continue what has been a strong start to their playoff run.
After playing in the Class 3A region final last year, Keswick (28-1) will host Hernando Christian Academy, a 43-34 winner over Naples First Baptist Academy, Friday at 5 p.m. with a berth in the Class 2A final four on the line.
Save for a couple of short fallow periods, this was a textbook game for the Crusaders. Suffocating baseline-to-baseline defense that created tons of turnovers and fast-break opportunities, playing fast and unselfishly on the offensive end to get everyone involved, and an all-out assault on the glass on any missed shots created a blowout victory.
“We've played with each other so much, we've gotten to that level where we know where everyone's going to be at any time,” said sophomore Sydney Jackwin, the catalyst at the top of the Keswick trapping D. “We can always trust each other to do our part and we're always looking for new ways to score.”
“It's a beautiful thing when they're in rhythm like that,” said head coach Karrmayne King. “They see the floor really well and it's so much fun to watch when they're in that mode.”
It’s easy to look at her numbers (game-high 14 points, eight steals, six rebounds) and think Jackwin was the MVP for the Crusaders, but there were heroes aplenty.
- Senior Jakara Akins, whose quick hands led to seven steals to go with nine points and four rebounds.
- Classmate Yasmin Baroni showing a great knack for rebounding, finishing with 11, including five on the offensive side, while adding nine points and four steals.
- Stefania March’s impressive work on the low blocks (eight points) and the glass (seven boards, six on the offensive end), as was the efforts of seventh grader Hannah Jantomaso (six rebounds and two steals).
- Rylee Hannon’s passing acumen (eight assists, including four during the final three minutes of the first half that created a 14-0 run and an indomitable 29-6 advantage).
In all, Keswick forced 36 turnovers from a seven-player Donahue Catholic squad (14-5) and outrebounded the Shamrocks 41-27.
Not to say that there aren’t some things for the Crusaders to work on, namely 24 turnovers of their own, including a fourth-quarter spate that allowed junior Kellyanne Scanlan (12 points, 10 rebounds and six steals) and senior Faith Giovine (10 points, seven boards and five steals) to cut the hosts’ lead to 40-22.
“We just have to count each possession a little bit more than we did (Wednesday),” King said. “If we can shoot a little bit better (24 of 68) and have a few less turnovers … If we do what we can do, we’ll be fine.”
And if that happens, King will reach another career milestone — career victory No. 600.
Region girls basketball finals
All games 7 p.m. Friday night unless noted.
7A: No. 3 Orlando Boone at No. 1 Plant
6A: No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech at No. 1 Winter Haven
4A: No. 2 Wesley Chapel at No. 1 Lake Highland Prep
3A: No. 2 Seffner Christian at No. 1 Carrollwood Day
2A: No. 2 Hernando Christian at No. 1 Keswick Christian, 5