TAMPA — It was an extremely tough day for Plant’s girls basketball team, even though it ended with a victory, 52-49 against Class 8A-District 7 rival Riverview.
The tough part started Thursday afternoon when the entire Panthers girls basketball team attended the funeral of Cindy Ruff, the Panthers’ girls basketball scorekeeper and Plant Athletic Foundation president.
“It was an emotional roller coaster,” said Plant coach Carrie Mahon, who spoke at the funeral. “The whole team came to the funeral, and then the kids came back and rallied in honor of Cindy’s memory because Cindy meant a lot to all of us.”
From the start of Thursday’s game, Plant (12-10, 4-5) played with an extra fire, even though it struggled mightily with its shooting, particularly during a 7-minute scoreless streak starting midway through the second quarter. Plant finished the second quarter with four points.
“We couldn’t buy a basket,” Mahon said. “It was frustrating, to say the least.”
But despite Plant’s shooting struggles, Riverview (10-5, 6-3) led only 22-16 at the half. The Sharks pushed their lead to 10 points early in the third quarter before Plant finally found its shooting touch.
In the fourth quarter, the Panthers went on a 13-2 run, took a 44-38 lead with 3 minutes remaining and never trailed the rest of the way.
“We never, ever gave up,” Mahon said. “I was very, very proud of our effort.”
Plant guard Madelyn Carey led the way with 20 points, followed by Savannah Walker with 10.
Riverview guard Asia Royster led the Sharks with 20 points, and Selina Guerad added 13.
Riverview’s leading scorer, forward Kierra Haywood, came in averaging 19 points a game but finished with only six on Thursday against Plant’s sagging zone defense.