PALM HARBOR — Visiting Plant High knew what to expect Thursday night at Palm Harbor University, it just wasn't able to handle it.
Forward Megan Ingram (game-high 16 points) and the host Hurricanes raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back during their dominant 46-35 Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal win. It's PHU's first postseason win in program history after failing to get past this point in three previous attempts.
“We knew most everything that they did to us,” said Plant coach Carrie Mahon. “We knew they could shoot the 3-pointer really well, [Ingram's] got nice feet and defensively they just did a really good job.”
Had Ingram not been pulled for most of the second half, she may have hit a triple-double. The junior finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
“That was key,” Hurricanes coach Darian Dublin said of the junior's performance. “I kind of gave her a pep talk before the game. I said, 'this has got to be your game.' ”
Ingram credited PHU's work on the glass and all-around team defense with fueling the victory.
“Our main goal overall was defense,” she said. “Defense wins games and defense creates offense.”
That constant pressure led to Plant not recording a double-digit scoring quarter until the fourth, with the game well out of reach. Panthers senior Madelyn Carey scored all of her team-high 10 points in the final period.
The 'Canes also received quality games from Ingram's sisters, senior Kaylin (five points) and freshman Julia (seven points, five rebounds). Senior Amber Jennings added nine points.
PHU never trailed, led by as much as 24 points and gave postseason minutes to bench players throughout most of the second half. Aside from Megan Ingram's standout night, Dublin said jumping on Plant early was huge.
“We tried to bring a lot of energy during warmups hoping that it would spill over into the game,” he said. “That was the key, just coming out fast.”
The 'Canes move on to host Tuesday's region semifinal against District 8A-8 rival St. Petersburg. PHU leads the season series 3-1, including last Friday's 44-40 league championship win at St. Pete.
“The last two times we've played them the games have come down to the last minute where somebody either stepped up with a big steal or hit free throws,” Dublin said of this season's St. Pete contests. “I give St. Pete a lot of credit. They come to play just like we come to play.”
PL - 6 – 9 – 5 – 15 --- 35
PHU - 17 – 19 – 8 – 2 --- 46
Madelyn Carey – 10 points
Caroline Cumby – 9 points
Payton Paro – 5 points, 8 rebounds
Palm Harbor University (24-3)
Megan Ingram – 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks
Amber Jennings – 9 points, 4 rebounds
Julia Ingram – 7 points, 5 rebounds