PALM HARBOR — A red-hot second half propelled visiting St. Petersburg past Palm Harbor University and into Saturday evening’s Class 8A region finals.
The Green Devils completely flipped the script after the break Tuesday night. They followed up a 22-point, first-half performance by steadily heating up as the game progressed and then taking care of business from the charity stripe.
“I told them they can’t shoot this bad two halves in a row,” said St. Pete coach Tamika Coley of her halftime speech. “But we just had to keep the defense up because our defense dictates our offense; it somehow rejuvenates us.”
Neither team shot particularly well in the first half, but PHU led throughout much of those initial 16 minutes. The Hurricanes went up by as many as eight points in the second quarter, but St. Pete slowly whittled that deficit down until running away in the fourth quarter.
The Green Devils never looked back after Brinesha Myrick drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key early in the final period to put St. Pete up 44-41. Lazasha Baskins’ layup with 3:48 left then gave the visitors the game’s first double-digit lead, at 55-44, during a decisive 17-5 run.
It was a free-throw test from there and St. Pete passed with flying colors. The Green Devils hit 19 of 25 attempts from the line in the fourth quarter and were 28 of 38 for the game.
“Free throws keep you in the game,” said Baskins, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “That was our problem [against PHU] a lot before. We lost by two, three, four points, and it was the free throws that killed us. We’ve been practicing hard on those free throws and they came and got us this win.”
PHU’s Megan Ingram finished as the night’s leading scorer, pouring in 12 of her 20 points in the opening quarter.
Three other Green Devils joined Baskins as double-digit scorers Tuesday. Simone Wilson added 13 points, Victoria Uhatafe scored 12 and Jordan Berenbaum hit for 11.
St. Pete moves on to play the winner of Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast and Vero Beach on Saturday. No matter the opponent, the Green Devils will have to travel.
Tuesday’s loss puts an end PHU’s most successful season in school history. The ‘Canes won the program’s first district championship and playoff game this year.
“I’m proud of these girls,” Dublin said. “They went 24-4 and they accomplished a lot this season. They got the first two [girls basketball] banners ever put up in the gym, so they can be proud of that.”
SP - 15 – 7 – 19 – 29 --- 70
PHU - 16 – 10 – 13 – 12 --- 51
St. Petersburg (23-6)
Lazasha Baskins – 18 points
Simone Wilson – 13 points
Victoria Uhatafe – 12 points
Palm Harbor University (24-4)
Megan Ingram – 20 points
Kaylin Ingram – 11 points
Amber Jennings – 9 points