LAKELAND -- Miami High’s girls’ basketball team never let being labeled an underdog hinder its performances.
Many didn’t think highly of its chances Saturday night at The Lakeland Center against two-time defending state champion Orlando Dr. Phillips having lost to the Panthers by 28 earlier this season.
The Stingarees, however, outplayed the Panthers for most of the game.
But a costly seven-minute lapse led to a 24-1 surge by Dr. Phillips that Miami High could not recover from in a 52-47 defeat in the Class 8A state championship game.
“We fell apart and we never could stop it,” Miami High junior guard Amanda Mendoza said. “We stopped it finally, but too late.”
But with a solid defensive effort and timely shooting, Miami High (25-6) had the Panthers (29-3) reeling and took a 30-22 lead with 6:05 left in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Terri Kimbrough.
That’s when Dr. Phillips got hot from beyond the arc and started its run. The Panthers hit nine three-pointers in the game including six in the second half and four during the run. Matea Britvar and Sydnei McCaskill each hit one during the spurt.
Hannah Schaible and Ionna McKenzie found their way to the basket consistently and Miami High made several turnovers as Dr. Phillips intensified its full-court pressure.
“Two games against them we had lapses in the third quarter,” Miami High coach Sam Baumgarten said. “We had a bad lapse. My kids showed a lot of heart to battle like that and stay in it. A couple of calls went the wrong way, but its part of the game. I’m honored to coach these kids.”
The Stingarees didn’t make a field goal until Mendoza made back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to 46-37. The shots helped Miami High work its way back into the game and nearly get a chance to rally late.
But one shot Mendoza made that the officials did not count was the one the Stingarees needed to have a real chance at a dramatic comeback.
After cutting the deficit to 51-47 with less than a minute left, Mendoza, who finished 15 points, drove to the basket and appeared to be fouled in the act of shooting. As she fell to the ground, Mendoza released a shot that went in off the backboard and could have had a chance to cut the deficit to one with the basket and a potential free throw.
The referees, however, called the foul on Schaible ruling she had fouled Mendoza before she progressed to take the shot. With Dr. Phillips not over the foul limit, Mendoza did not get a chance to shoot free throws. On the ensuing possession, Mendoza fired a three-pointer that missed the mark.
“She hit me right when I shot it,” Mendoza said. “They didn’t see it that way, but we can’t do anything about it now.”
On a later possession, Miami High center Beatrice Mompremier drew contact in the paint but was called for traveling, turning the ball over with 20.1 seconds left.
Mompremier finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Kimbrough had 10 points and four assists. Each had instances where they battled under the boards but were whistled for traveling late in the game.
Although Miami High graduates four seniors, both Mompremier and Mendoza return. They will form the core of a team expected to be among the best in South Florida again next season.
DP (29-3): Britvar 5, McCaskill 17, Check 12, Schaible 6, Allison 4, McKenzie 8. MHS (25-6): Pierre 2, Johnson 2, Mompremier 11, Mendoza 15, Kimbrough 10, Reid 2, Sweeting 3, Guerrero 2. Half: MHS 25-20. Fouled out: Johnson, Schaible. Three-pointers: Britvar, McCaskill 3, Check 4, Allison, Mendoza 3, Kimbrough 2, Sweeting. Rebounds: Mompremier 15. Assists: McCaskill 7. Steals: Schaible 5. Blocks: Mompremier 5.