MOUNT DORA — Since the beginning of the season, Seffner Christian’s girls basketball team has played like a group on a mission to win a state title.
After losing in the state semifinals last season, the Crusaders played through one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedule of any team in the Tampa Bay area this season to prepare themselves for a state title run.
On Friday, Mount Dora Bible became the latest program to succumb to the Crusaders’ unwillingness to let any opponent stand in their way of accomplishing that goal.
Seffner Christian, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 3A, captured the Region 2 championship, 65-22, to advance to their third state final four in four years.
Seffner Christian (25-5) will play Clearwater Calvary Christian in the 3A state semifinals Tuesday at The Lakeland Center.
Seffner Christian defeated Calvary Christian in the regular season, 67-62.
“It feels awesome,” said senior guard Sabrina Whiting, who led the way with a game-high 26 points along with seven steals. “I just want to finish the job now.”
Sophomore forward Peyton Walker added 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Sara Denny had 12.
Seffner Christian led 17-11 after the first quarter and outscored the host Bulldogs 44-6 in the second and third quarters, forcing a running clock because of the 35-point mercy rule.
Gianna Bonner led Mount Dora Bible (23-7) with eight points.
“I want to win this, I want to redeem myself and not lose this one again,” said Walker, who has already set the program’s career record in rebounds. “All we’ve thought about is going to the final four and going to state because we want this so bad.
“I want to win this for my seniors, too, because this is their last chance.”
The Crusaders lost in the 1A state semifinals in 2011.
“From the very beginning, they understood the goal, and they have not wavered from it,” Seffner Christian coach Greg Fawbush said. “They’ve kept their focus of what we’re supposed to do. It’s been very planned out, ... we sat down as a team and developed it.”
4A-3: Dunbar overpowers AHN
FORT MYERS — The Academy of the Holy Names girls basketball team knew it had a huge mountain to climb in Friday’s Class 4A-Region 3 final at state power Dunbar.
And for a quarter, thanks to senior guard Ashley McWilliams, the Jaguars gave the Tigers all they could handle.
Eventually, however, Dunbar’s superior size and relentless trapping defense shut down Holy Names, and the Tigers pulled away for a 72-45 victory.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Jaguars coach Chris Severini said. “It was really important for us to try to control the tempo.
“We’ve been dealing with a size disadvantage all year. We were trying to minimize their points in the paint as much as possible. But we knew they’d get their opportunities because of their size and athleticism.”
McWilliams, who finished with a game-high 27 points, scored the first 10 of the game for Holy Names (22-9), which trailed 14-12 after one quarter.
“She is a tough kid,” Dunbar coach Dwayne Donnell said of McWilliams. “We were throwing everything at her, but she kept making plays.”
The Tigers (28-1) opened the second quarter on a 13-3 run, taking advantage of turnovers and with 5-foot-9 junior Regine Cooper and 6-foot sophomore Respect Leaphart netting easy baskets off offensive rebounds.
Holy Names, which turned the ball over 31 times, trailed by nine at halftime and never got any closer the rest of the way.
2A-2: AATL makes return trip to state
WINTER PARK — Academy at the Lakes (22-5) has reached the state semifinals the past two seasons, and the Wildcats, with their youngest team yet, wanted to make a bid for a third trip.
They were able to make it three consecutive trips to The Lakeland Center, as the Wildcats were able to build a sizable lead on the way to a 76-59 victory against Winter Park International Community in the Class 2A-Region 2 final Friday night.
Both teams seemed evenly match in the first half, with the Wildcats holding a 30-27 lead at intermission. The third quarter belong to AATL, as they outscored Winter Park International 25-7 and went into the final period up 55-34. AATL was able to hold on the rest of the way and secure a spot in Class 2A’s final four.