Girls basketball region final recap

Class 7A

Plant 63, Oak Ridge 29

The Panthers, the top-ranked team in 7A, were an overwhelming favorite to reach the state semifinals for the second straight season.

Entering Friday’s region final, Plant had won six straight, all by 13 or more points. The winning streak continued in convincing fashion as the Panthers completed their quest by routing Oak Ridge. 

By getting off to a quick start, Plant was able to take control early. The Panthers went ahead 21-5 at the end of the first quarter and led 37-17 at the half. 

Nyla Jean, a Georgia State signee, was impressive, finishing with 24 points, six steals and four rebounds. Teammate Kendal Cheesman, a Vanderbilt signee, had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Though Plant has made it back to Lakeland, there is not a just-happy-to-be-here sentiment with this group, especially after coming up short in the state final last season. 

This time, the main goal is to bring home the first state title in school history. 

Class 6A

Winter Haven 86, Armwood 66

The Hawks, who were in the region final for the second time in the past three seasons, had a difficult task. To extend its playoff run, Armwood had to knock off the Blue Devils, who were ranked second in 6A, sixth overall in the state and eighth nationally by MaxPreps. 

The opponent was too quick, too powerful. It ended up being too much to overcome. 

By halftime, the Hawks were down 45-25 and trailed 68-39 at the end of the third. Armwood still battled, outscoring Winter Haven 27-18 but it was not enough. 

Class 5A

Clearwater 49, Naples Barron Collier 45 (OT)

The pressure in this moment could have been overwhelming for the Tornadoes, who have just one senior on the roster. 

Clearwater watched its fourth quarter lead slip away. A Barron Collier three-pointer in the final minute tied the game. 

Still, there was a chance for the Tornadoes to win it in regulation. Liv Fuller raced down the court and was fouled, giving her two shots at the line. She missed both, sending the game into overtime. 

Though the momentum had shifted, at least temporarily, Clearwater’s young lineup never let it become a deterrent. The Tornadoes showed their resolve — and their maturity — by taking control early in overtime, then holding on for a victory.

Clearwater extended its win streak to 14 by advancing to the state semifinals for the first time since 2007. Fuller, a sophomore, was a force, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and three assists. Teammate Beckham Hockley, a freshman, had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. 

Class 4A

Lincoln Park Academy 38, Lakewood 30

Down by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Spartans were confident they could still rally to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2018. 

After all, Lakewood overcame a 20-3 first quarter deficit against Cocoa to win in the region semifinals.

Sure enough, the Spartans started coming back. With 3:15 remaining, Lakewood had cut it to 34-30. They would not get closer. Lincoln Park Academy scored the final four points to win. 

Nilah Coleman led the Spartans in scoring with 12 points, followed by Sincere Robinson with 12. 

Class 3A

Brooks DeBartolo 76, Benjamin 39

The Phoenix had already accomplished its biggest task by knocking off defending 3A state champion Carrollwood Day in the district final and the region semifinals. 

With the playoff path cleared, Brooks DeBartolo’s second state semifinal trip appeared to be a foregone conclusion, even if there was another game to be played.

The region final was mere formality. The Phoenix used it as a tuneup, cruising to a 38-point win. All five starters reached double figures in scoring, led by Triniti Youngblood with 18 points.

Class 2A

Naples First Baptist 54, Hernando Christian 44

The Lions’ third straight region final appearance ended with another loss. But Hernando Christian is improving. Friday’s outcome was the closest of those three losses.  

State semifinal schedule

All games at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.  Admission is $10 in advance, $13 on day of the event. Parking is $10.

Class 7A

Plant vs. Oakleaf, 12:30 Friday

Class 5A

Clearwater vs. Plantation American Heritage, 4 Thursday

Class 3A

Brooks DeBartolo vs. Miami Country Day, 4 Wednesday