Somerset Prep is knocking on the state championship door.
Somerset knocked off Bradenton Christian Prep 62-46 in a Class 3A state semifinal Monday at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland and will vie for its first girls’ basketball state championship.
“It was a lot of pressure, but we made it,” said senior guard Tyesha Battle, who led all scorers with 22 points.
Somerset (22-4) will play Orlando Christian Prep — a 49-38 winner over defending state champion Tallahassee Florida A&M in an earlier semifinal — for the state championship at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Somerset was eliminated by FAMU in last year’s 3A semifinal 59-48.
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“This is my first time watching [Orlando Christian]. I think I watched maybe five or seven minutes of them. They are a very disciplined team, very well coached,” Somerset coach Henry McNabb said.
McNabb took over the program in late July after being a travel-ball coach, but he said he knew he was going to take the team to the state title game.
“I did, I am not even going to lie,” said McNabb, who had never coached high school basketball before. “This is a whole new group, and we put together a very competitive schedule just for these moments.”
Somerset reached the title game with only a seven-player roster, and coincidentally reached the state semis a year ago with only seven players. But only two players, Mariah Santana and Tyesha Battle, returned. McNabb admitted he worried about injuries.
“Man, we pray every day. We are really blessed to go throughout the season with no real serious injuries,” he said.
Bradenton cut a 22-point third quarter lead to 12 with three minutes to go in the game, but Somerset was never really threatened after dominating the third quarter, outscoring Bradenton Christian 23-8 and extended its lead to 49-27.
Somerset, which trailed, slightly, most of the first half, tied the score at 17 with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter on a three-pointer by sophomore forward Alexis Gibbs.
“At first the girls were a little nervous. They were not shooting with a lot of confidence. There were a lot of nerves involved,” McNabb said.
Gibbs hit a buzzer-beater to end the first half with Somerset leading 26-19, and the seven-point lead was the largest of the first half. Somerset outscored Bradenton Christian 17-8 in the second.
“It was unexpected. I didn’t even realize the clock,” Gibbs said.