TAMPA — Brooks DeBartolo was on fire Friday night. There was no way the Phoenix girls were going to let Carrollwood Day off the hook this time in a Class 3A, District 9 final.
“We were going to beat them with defense,” Brooks DeBartolo senior Triniti Youngblood said. “Defense wins games. Defense.”
With their signature, relentless, man-to-man, in-your-face defense, Brooks DeBartolo dug down and ultimately beat the defending Class 3A state champ 42-39.
In the final five minutes, the Phoenix (15-5) were particularly stingy. In that span they didn’t allow the Patriots a single field goal, and in the final quarter the Patriots (13-5) scored a total of four points.
“We knew we had to step up and give it everything we had,” Youngblood said. “What a great feeling.”
From start to finish, the game was tight, the lead never exceeding more than six points at any point. After one quarter the Patriots led 15-10. At the half it was tied at 21, and heading into the final quarter, Carrollwood Day led 35-34.
“We believed it was going to be close, with ebbs and flows, and we knew we could never let up,” Brooks DeBartolo coach Ellie Wilbur said. “It’s a big win for us. They beat us last year (in a close district final and region semifinal) but we felt we could get them this time.”
Down the stretch, Youngblood stepped up big time. After clanking a couple of foul shots way off the mark midway through the fourth quarter, Youngblood found herself on the line shooting one-and-ones with 43.5 and 19.1 seconds remaining in the game. She ended up sinking three-of-four of those foul shots, including the final two.
“When I missed those first two foul shots I was in my head because I had made a bad pass on a play just before I went to the line,” said Youngblood, who finished with six points, four fewer than the team leaders Brionna McClinton and Jaela Davis, who finished with 10 apiece. “When I went to the line for those final foul shots I said to myself, ‘I’m a senior, I have to make these.’ I think the pressure of that calmed me down. I had to make them for teammates.”
She did, calmly and cooly.
“Those shots felt good,” Youngblood said. “Real good.”
The victory Friday isn’t the end, however. If Carrollwood Day (ranked No. 5 in the state’s Class 3A poll) and Brooks DeBartolo (ranked No. 4 in Class 3A) win region quarterfinals Thursday, they would meet again in a region semifinal.
“It isn’t an easy path, but we feel we are prepared for it,” Wilbur said. “Tonight’s victory should help a lot.”