LAKELAND -- There was no exuberance among the Miami Country Day girls as they punched their return ticket to the state Class 3A title game.
For one thing, it’d be bad form to get too pumped about a 49-point blowout at Tallahassee Maclay’s expense — one that included two shutout quarters. Plus, Tuesday’s result merely gives the Spartans a chance to wash out the bad taste from last year.
They still have to take the final step.
“The whole goal right now is to finish it off,” senior Danielle Minott said after Country Day’s 69-20 romp at the Lakeland Center.
Said coach Ochiel Swaby: “The only thing we want to do is win a state title. It’s no disrespect to anyone else in the class. We’ve done the work, and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Minott scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as Country Day (25-3) ran off its eighth consecutive win — all by no less than 27 points. Ogetchi Anyagaligbo added 15 points and nine rebounds, while Michelle Berry added 10 points off the bench and Channise Lewis had eight assists.
The Spartans play for the crown Wednesday against Seffner Christian, who pulled away from Clearwater’s Calvary Christian for a 56-48 win in the other semifinal. Tipoff is set for 4:35 p.m.
“Seffner has a ton of talent,” Swaby said. “They’ve got the pieces to beat us. We need to have a healthy respect for them, but we also need a fear of losing. To me, that’s more important for us.”
Country Day’s last defeat came Jan. 20, falling 58-53 to Miami High in a game that prompted the Spartans to look at videotape with a more critical eye.
“That game shined bright on all the things we were doing,” Swaby said. “We were winning games, but we were winning games playing poorly.”
Since then, the Spartans’ average margin of victory has been 44.1 points.
“I guess the next teams that followed that loss really felt our pain,” said Minott, who has signed to play collegiately at Syracuse.
Country Day lost last year’s title game 44-40 to Daytona Beach Father Lopez, building a seven-point lead early in the third quarter but succumbing down the stretch.
“The disappointment was so great,” Swaby said. “Everything we did from the offseason — our scheduling, our work — was geared to this moment.”
Poor Maclay (22-7) was overwhelmed from the start, trailing 20-0 after one quarter until finally notching its first points 68 seconds into the second. The Marauders also were shut out in the third period, which ended with Country Day holding a 57-12 lead.
“That team that y’all saw — I’ve never seen them in my life,” said Raphael Harris, Maclay’s befuddled coach. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t know what team showed up; it wasn’t my team.”
Jacksonville Ribault 72, Gulliver Prep 43: A cold-shooting start left Gulliver Prep with the unpleasant task of chasing defending Class 4A state champion Jacksonville Ribault the rest of the evening, falling 72-43 in their semifinal matchup.
The Raiders (24-6) hit just two of 14 shots in the opening quarter — missing all eight three-point attempts — in falling behind 17-4 after the first period. Gulliver went scoreless for the final 4:06 of the quarter until Chloe Nixon drained a three-pointer on the first shot of the second.
Gulliver clawed back to 19-12 a bit later, before Ribault (29-5) embarked on a 19-2 scoring spree to take firm control.
“We’re used to shooting lights out,” said Gulliver coach Jay Zambolla, whose team came to Lakeland shooting 47 percent from long distance.
“Then to come to an arena this big, it’s tough [to get the feel]. We went to practice at a couple of colleges the last few days to simulate it, but you can’t.”
Gulliver hit just 13 of 52 shots from the floor (25 percent) on the night. Nixon led the Raiders with 10 points and five rebounds, while Camilla Wirshing scored nine.
Kayla Rogers’ 16 points led three Ribault players in double figures.