4A: Brooks-Debartolo closes out East Gadsden 66-55
The bright lights of The Lakeland Center nearly blinded Tampa Brooks-DeBartolo, but the Phoenix were able to rise just in time.
Brooks-DeBartolo closed the fourth quarter on a 16-4 run to advance to its first state title game with a 66-55 victory over Havana East Gadsden in the girls basketball Class 4A state semifinals at The Lakeland Center on Wednesday afternoon.
The Phoenix advanced to face No. 1 Orlando Lake Highland Prep in the 4A title game at 8:05 tonight.
Brooks-DeBartolo got off to a slow start as the environment of a much bigger stage seemed to get to them. The Phoenix missed several inside shots despite using their height advantage to control the boards.
“We had a couple close range shots that we missed,” said Brooks-DeBartolo coach Maggie Hedley, a 2006 graduate of Webber International University. “I think that was just feeling the floor out, which I know a lot of teams do here. We’ve had slow starts all year. I told the girls, ‘Let’s do what we’ve been doing.’ That’s what I told them in the timeouts, just relax, take a deep breath and calm down.”
Brooks-DeBartolo (26-4) found its legs in the second quarter, turning a two-point first-quarter deficit into a 32-22 halftime lead.
East Gadsden (21-6) didn’t go down without a fight. The Jaguars won the third quarter 17-12 and led 51-50 with 4 minutes left in the game.
The Phoenix turned up their defensive pressure and got a key 3-pointer from Alyssa Nieves to spark the game-clinching run.