Plant wins school’s first state title in girls basketball

A year ago, Plant’s girls basketball players were locked in the misery of a loss in the school’s first state championship game appearance.

The Panthers had done all the right things last season, winning more than 30 games and going into the final on a 24-game win streak..

But Miami crushed Plant’s state title hopes 63-38.

As the Panthers headed toward the locker room, they looked back at RP Funding Center court in Lakeland and realized their season was gone.

The seeds for a rematch were sown on that parquet floor, in what they hoped would become a familiar spot in the playoffs.

On Saturday, Plant got it wanted with another appearance in the championship game. 

Again, the Stingarees stood in the way.

The Panthers embraced the second chance. They were not intimidated playing on high school basketball’s biggest stage. They were more polished, more experienced and more eager to prove they were more than capable of winning it all.

This time, Plant prevailed, winning the 7A final, 52-40. 

It is the school’s first state in girls basketball. 

To complete their quest, the Panthers had to rally from a 22-20 halftime deficit. 

They bore down in the third quarter, outscoring Miami.18-9 to take a 38-31 lead.

Still, the Stingarees would not go away. They scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to cut it to 38-36. 

That’s as close as Miami would get. 

Plant’s veterans, senior forward Kendal Cheesman and senior guard Nyla Jean, made sure of it. They provided the bulk of the production down the stretch to build the lead back up to double digits. 

Cheesman, a Vanderbilt signee, finished with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Jean, a Georgia State signee, had 14 points and four assists.