It’s not how you start but how you finish.
And that certainly rang true for the Nova girls’ basketball team on Friday afternoon as the Titans overcame a nightmarish first quarter before settling down and grinding out a 46-41 win over Tampa Bay Tech in a Class 8A state semifinal at the RP Funding Center.
Nova (30-1) advances to the 8A state title game on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and will face Winter Haven, a team that represents their only loss this season, a 51-42 decision on Jan. 13 in the MLK Classic at Hallandale High.
“Just a great job of the girls settling down and finding a way to come back and get it done,” Nova coach Jason Hively said. “I talked to them after the game about how each one of these girls can rely on someone else and keep playing as hard as they could. We preach it’s about team, not self and that’s why we’re playing for a state championships [Saturday] because we found a way to get this done as a team today.”
Nova, which has never won a state title but has twice been a runner-up in 2009 and 2013, made just 1 of 12 shots in the first quarter while committing six turnovers and trailed 13-3 after one.
But thanks in part to Hively switching up and trying a 2-3 zone trap defense, something they had not tried all year, his team battled back, knotting the score at 19 by halftime. The Titans then went on a 10-1 run to start the second half and enjoyed a lead as large as 11 (33-22) before holding off a late Tampa Bay Tech surge that trimmed their lead to four (43-39) with a minute left.
And they did it all with the team’s top scorer, senior Erin Gutierrez suffering through a miserable day. Gutierrez had just one field goal (1 for 8 from the floor) and finished with just eight points. But other players, including Gabrielle Gonzalez, Trinity Delancy and Kayla Massop picked up the slack finishing with 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“Good basketball players don’t dwell on the past or what’s going wrong,” said Gutierrez, a Tulane commit. “No matter how rough it gets out there, you just have to find a way to keep grinding and do whatever you can to help your team win. Like coach says, it’s about team, not self and today that’s what carried us through.”
NOV: Gonzalez 12, Delancy 11, Massop 10, Gutierrez 8, August 5. TBT: Godfrey 9, Murray 7, Perkins 6, Thomas 6, Lise 5, Spurlin 3, Buie 3, Patterson 2. Three pointers: Delancy 2, Godfrey 2, August. Rebounds: Gonzalez 5. Assists: Gutierrez 3. Steals: Gonzalez 3. Half: 19-19.