Late in the second quarter Wednesday night in the Class 8A-District 7 girls basketball semifinals, second-seeded Plant High found itself in a surprising struggle with Alonso.
That's when Panthers coach Carrie Mahon decided to utilize a full-court press. The Panthers responded with a flurry of steals and baskets to pull away for a 52-25 victory.
Plant led 17-16 before it went on a 15-0 run.
"We wanted to use the press in spurts and we figured that was a good time to use it," Mahon said. "We didn't want to show (Newsome) too much so we had to curtail things a bit, but Alonso definitely made things interesting."
Three players finished in double figures for Plant, including Krista Brady and Reggina Brown with 13 points each and Christina Tamargo with 11.
Tamargo went 3-for-3 in the first quarter, including two long 3-pointers, to help the Panthers take a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the Ravens fought back with seven consecutive points midway through the second quarter before the Panthers put the press on.
Plant moves on to face Newsome in the final Friday after the Wolves routed Wharton 60-19. Lauren Boerger led Newsome with 26 points.
"Our main objective was to play with the same type of energy we do in every game and to not lose any focus," Newsome coach Sara Bogue said.
Plant and Newsome split their games during the regular season.
7A-8: TBT and Riverview advance
Sophomore guard Kirtisha Nelson tied a Tampa Bay Tech record at the buzzer with her ninth 3-pointer, capping a 29-point performance in a 68-42 victory against Hillsborough in a Class 7A-District 8 semifinal. The defending district champion Titans on Friday will host top-seeded Riverview, a 60-25 winner against Plant City in the early game.
Hillsborough (15-9), coming off a 62-point victory against Brandon on Tuesday, opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run to close within 48-42. No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech (16-9) responded with 20 consecutive points to set up a rematch of last year's district final.
Riverview (17-6) also was led by a sophomore guard. Asia Royster scored 19 points, highlighted by a shot from midcourt as time expired in the first half.
"It was just another shot," she said. "I just timed it right and it went in."
Forwards Kierra Haywood and Shatisha Dukes added 18 and 13 points, respectively, for the Sharks.
7A-9: Steinbrenner, Freedom roll
As expected, the top two seeds in Class 7A-District 9 cruised to easy victories to set up a rematch of last year's district championship.
In the first semifinal, Steinbrenner (20-5) took a double-digit lead against Wiregrass Ranch (16-12) in the game's first 5 minutes and was never really threatened in the 50-35 win.
"We knew if we were going to come in and win another championship we had to act like it," Warriors coach J.R. Allen said. "And we did that tonight."
The Warriors were led by junior Olivia Unger's 15 points and senior Bailey Hooker's 14.
In the second semifinal, top-seeded Freedom (21-3) wasted no time with Gaither (3-19), as it scored the game's first 28 points in the 88-16 blowout win.
Patriots coach Laurie Pacholke knew both teams were in a tough spot.
"I hate games like this," Pacholke said. "But this is the playoffs and we had to come in here and do what we needed to do and not worry about who we were playing. I give Gaither a lot of credit for playing hard and never quitting, though."
Freedom got high-scoring performances from its two leading scorers (Taylor Emery and Faith Woodard) as each had 26 points.
In last year's district title game, Steinbrenner had to beat Freedom for a third time to win the championship, but the shoe will be on the other foot this time, as the Patriots have beaten the Warriors twice this season.
"The good thing is, no matter what both teams will be moving on," Pacholke said.
6A-10: River Ridge upsets Tarpon Springs
Mitchell and River Ridge were victorious in the Class 6A-District 10 semifinals, and they will meet Friday for the district championship.
In the first game, the Royal Knights stunned top-seeded Tarpon Springs 46-35. The Spongers were 8-0 in district play coming into the game. In their two earlier matchups with River Ridge, they defeated the Knights by 17 and nine points.
Wednesday, the Knights were led by Leah Ford's 16 points. River Ridge opened a 14-point lead, only to see the Spongers storm back to pull within six, 39-33, with just more than 4 minutes left. The ball-handling of Knights point guard Jalynn Hoolihan was key down the stretch, and River Ridge pulled away.
In the second game, host Mitchell broke open a tight game in the final period to win 42-32. With the score tied at 31 with 3 minutes left, Mitchell's Kim Knudsen made a wide open 3-pointer to give the Mustangs a 34-31 lead.
6A-11: Sickles, Strawberry Crest win
Strawberry Crest looked out of step to start the Class 6A-District 11 semifinals as Chargers coach La'Tosha Lewis stomped her foot and shouted out plays to her team early.
Trailing by 16 to Armwood at one point in the second quarter and 10 at the half, things were looking bleak for the Chargers.
However, Chargers freshman Terra Brooks' big fourth quarter led Strawberry Crest to a 45-35 win and a spot in Friday's final. Brooks finished with 14 points followed by Aliyah Gregory with 12 as the Chargers scored 23 in the final quarter. Despite sitting out 6 minutes in the third quarter with foul trouble, Armwood's Kiana King finished with a game-high 17 points, but the Hawks only scored 13 points in the second half.
Facing Strawberry Crest in the final will be top-seeded Sickles (22-4), which defeated Jefferson 58-38. The Gryphons were paced by Cierra Wheatley and Sarah Hartman, who each finished with 11 points. Jefferson (6-14) got 11 points from Jazmine Meredith in the loss.
Sickles has a pair of double-digit wins against Strawberry Crest this season.
5A-11: Robinson, Blake to play for title
There will be a rematch for the Class 5A-District 11 title when Blake hooks up again with Robinson. The teams met last year, when Blake knocked off the Knights in the title game.
Both teams advanced with easy wins. Host Robinson took a 57-13 victory against Lennard, which was playing without two players ruled ineligible Wednesday morning.
In the opening game, Blake struggled with a feisty Middleton team before pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 54-42 win.
Robinson first-year coach Troy Stewart said he can only hope his team didn't take the easy win too seriously. Robinson led 37-8 at the half and 50-9 after three quarters. Stewart kept most of his starters in until the final buzzer.
Autumn Carson had 19 points to lead the Knights, and Deliah Autry and Miranda Werner each had eight.
"I preach to this team that it can never take anything for granted,'' Stewart said. "I am all about fundamentals, and we have a lot of work to do before Friday. It's all about fundamentals, and the players have to remember that it isn't going to be easy and they have to be ready for a tough game Friday."
The Knights have beaten Blake (12-13) in both meetings this year, but Blake coach Marlin Steward said he knew his team was a bit sloppy in the win against Middleton and needs to bring it's a game on Friday.
"Middleton played hard, and we need to learn to stay focused,'' Steward said. "We have to play harder than tonight. I am not satisfied, because I know we can do better.''
Le'Area Wilkerson led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points, and Domenique Green added 10.
Jackie Mickins led Middleton (3-13) with 26 points.
4A-9: TC, Holy Names claim victories
For the second consecutive year, Tampa Catholic and Academy of the Holy Names will meet in the Class 4A-District 9 title game after the Crusaders and Jaguars pulled off relatively easy victories in the semifinals.
In the first game, Tampa Catholic defeated Sarasota Booker 57-43, and in the nightcap Academy defeated Berkeley Prep 41-23.
The victories improved Academy's record to 15-9 and Tampa Catholic to 9-14, though records seem to mean little when these rivals face off. They will meet Friday at 7 at Academy.
In two previous meetings this season, Academy won hardfought battles by scores of 48-39 and 47-40.