The solution for Miami Country Days girls basketball team was simple.
What got us in a rut in the first half was fouling, Country Day senior forward Breanna Blot said. We just needed to move our hands and feet without fouling.
Once the Spartans did that, they were well on their way to a strong third quarter and an eventual 60-51 victory over Seffner Christian in a Class 3A state semifinal Wednesday in Lakeland.
Country Day advanced to play Daytona Beach Father Lopez 8:05 p.m. Thursday.
Father Lopez (26-5) won its only state title in 2005, but this will be Country Days first appearance in a championship game.
Spartans coach Ochiel Swaby said he feels the burden of trying to win this title for the school, but he didnt see any signs of nervousness from his players on Wednesday.
The only problem, Swaby said, was the whistles. The Spartans (28-1) led just 25-24 at halftime after they were called for eight fouls.
The press defense doesnt work if were fouling, Swaby said.
Seffner led 26-25 early in the third quarter, which is when the Spartans press finally started clicking. From there, the Spartans went on a 22-9 run to close the third quarter with a 47-35 lead.
The closest Seffner got after that was 57-51 with 53 seconds left, but the Spartans despite making just 3 of 8 free throws in the final minute were able to hold on for the win.
Blot had a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds. Fellow senior forward Onika Swaby added 15 points and seven rebounds. Eighth-grade point guard Channise Lewis had 15.points and seven assists, and sophomore guard Stephanie Mackenzie had eight points and a game-high seven steals.
Junior forward Danielle Minott, who is the teams leading scorer on the season, was held to six points, but the Spartans survived with their balanced offense and press defense, which forced 28 turnovers.
Next up are the Green Waves, who advanced by beating Clearwater Calvary Christian, 50-41. Father Lopez held Calvary to 20.6 percent shooting.
The Waves are led by 5-9 senior point guard Shannon Cranshaw, who is averaging 22.2 points and 5.4 assists, and 6-1 senior forward Ashley Folsom, who chips in 18.7 points and 12.3 rebounds.
They played a tough schedule and beat Class 4A state semifinalist Port Orange Atlantic in the regular season.
Of the Waves five losses, four are against state semifinalists in larger classifications: Orlando Colonial (8A), Orlando Dr. Phillips (8A); Gainesville Buchholz (7A) and undefeated Jacksonville Ribault (4A). The other loss was to 4A regional semifinalist Lake Highland Prep.
Coach Swaby said he watched Father Lopez play earlier Wednesday but otherwise has no scouting report on them.
Theyre sneaky, he said. They hid all of their video. We, as coaches, have to try to find out as much as we can about them between now and Thursday night.
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