LAKEWOOD RANCH — It was as if Lakewood Ranch High girls basketball coach Tina Hadley was watching two different teams out on the court.
First there was the team that put forth somewhat of a lackluster effort in a 49-32 victory over Bayshore in the Class 4A-District 10 semifinals. And then there was the team whose defensive effort caught top-seeded St. Petersburg Lakewood off guard until the final minutes of a 53-46 loss in the district championship Feb. 5.
“The thing about my team is they tend to play to their level of competition,” Hadley said. “If they know a team is more (talented), then they tend to play tougher.”
In their first meeting with the Lady Spartans, the Lady Mustangs endured an embarrassing 75-41 loss. But in the district championship, Lakewood Ranch came out believing it could compete for the district title.
And the Lady Mustangs did just that.
Lakewood Ranch controlled the scoreboard for most of the game, taking a 24-23 lead into the locker room at halftime. But turnovers and missed free throws proved to be the difference in the second half.
The Lady Mustangs turned the ball over 22 times and missed seven critical free throws, including five down the stretch. Lakewood also found itself in foul trouble with starters Alice Assenza and Mylon Shamble both fouling out.
Tiffany Waters led the way for the Lady Mustangs with 16 points.
“It was an awesome game,” Hadley said. “We knew we could play with them. We had two essential players get into foul trouble, which hurt us, but we were definitely leading the entire game (until the end).
“We played with intensity and toughness,” she said. “We played defense and ran our offense. It’s amazing we only lost by seven points though. They just didn’t capitalize on our turnovers.”
As the District 10 runner-up, Lakewood Ranch will travel to Tampa Jefferson to face the District 9 champion Lady Dragons in the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
It’ll be the first time Lakewood has faced Tampa Jefferson, but after watching the Lady Dragons play in their district championship game Feb. 6, Hadley knows her team will have to contain the Lady Dragons’ speed and keep them from pushing the ball up the floor if they’re going to move on to the semifinals.
“All I expect for them to do is to play to the best of their ability and play together as a team,” Hadley said. “If we can establish a strong inside game, then that usually helps our outside game. If we can do that then we’re going to be very competitive.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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