TAMPA — Top-seeded Brooks DeBartolo and Tampa Catholic will face off in the district finals for a third straight time, but one of them almost missed out on the rematch.
Host Academy of the Holy Names overcame a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and led with a minute remaining, only to have Tampa Catholic's Mykaylyn Davis score two quick layups off steals and the Crusaders escaped 51-47.
The teams, who went to overtime with Brooks DeBartalo prevailing 69-63 earlier this season, meet Saturday night for the 5A-9 title.
Brooks DeBartalo scored the first 18 points of the second half while holding Berkeley Prep to five points in a 68-23 victory. The Phoenix (22-3), who went 7-0 in district play, forced 24 turnovers, using a full-court press to eventually blitz the Bucs.
TC (18-7) also benefitted greatly from the press, but didn't utilize it until the third quarter. After a slow start — the Jaguars (18-9) trailed 4-0 before getting on the board with 2:21 left in the first — the pace picked up and AHN was up 21-20 at the break. It didn't help TC that one of its top threats, Tanyia Gordon, missed the last 10 minutes with two fouls.
Lindsey Perez, who provided a lift off the bench with five first-half points, scored on a nifty move and Samantha Miller followed with a basket as the upset-minded Jaguars went up 29-23. But TC answered immediately with a 3 from Davis, and the press led the way a stunning 12-0 run that took less than two minutes.
Just as stunning was the shell the Crusaders went into after they built the lead to 45-35 midway through the fourth quarter, committing four straight turnovers while Miller was making a pair of 3s. AHN took the lead on Mickey Carney's steal and layup, 47-46 with 1:45 remaining.
Another turnover, one of seven by TC in the fourth, had the Jaguars primed, but Lenise Santiago got a steal of her own and fed Davis for a TC lead just past the minute mark. Fifteen seconds later Davis did the work herself, and the Jags missed three chances to tie on the other end.
When the teams played last month, the game ended with a running clock and Tampa Catholic winning 65-31. Gordon scored 11 of her 15 in the second half Thursday while Davis and Santiago had 10 apiece. TC made six of its first 10 3-pointers, including three from Kaycee Reed in the first half.
Miller scored 16 points, Carney 14 for AHN, which had won four straight entering the final.
Constance Thomas was the centerpiece of the opener with 15 points, seven steals and five assists for Brooks DeBartalo. Freshman center Triniti Youngblood added 13 points and six rebounds while sophomore guard Maliyah Perry scored 12 while tossing in seven assists. Kayla Blaine and Brionna McClinton added nine points apiece.
Within a 90-second span late in the first half, Thomas displayed a sweet pull-up jumper, went behind her back to feed Perry for a fast break layup, and followed with a no-look pass to Brionna McClinton for a score. It was 42-18 at the half.
Center Kellyn Trowse paced Berkeley (14-8) with seven points while fellow senior Kristina Foreman added six, Frances Perez five, all of the points coming in the first half. Mack added three first-half assists.
The Phoenix had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half but none the rest of the way — mainly because they missed so rarely. Brooks DeBartalo made nine straight shots in the third quarter, just missing twice in the period; meanwhile the Bucs came 15 seconds from being shut out before Lauren Mack hit a 3-pointer.
The running clock went into effect with 4:35 left in the third with the score at 54-18, and could have started sooner but for the Phoenix's poor free-throw shooting, starting 7-for-24.
Berkeley struggled with foul trouble, as the Phoenix was in the bonus 4:30 into the game. Brooks DeBartalo had a double-digit lead just 2:40 in, at 12-2.