Stout defense leads Palmetto girls basketball team into district semifinals

jdill@bradenton.comJanuary 29, 2013 

PALMETTO -- The turnovers came in waves.

Whether the ball was tossed out of bounds or into an awaiting Palmetto girls basketball player, the result was the same -- the Tigers high-pressure defense was stifling and too much for the visiting Largo Packers to overcome.

Palmetto (15-8) relied on its defense to produce points on the offensive end and did so in earning a 61-39 victory to open the Class 6A-District 12 tournament on Monday.

"We just changed up and went to man, and got out of zone," Palmetto head

coach Robert Kelly said. "And made them press up on them, and made them do what they needed to do."

The Tigers snagged last year's district title, the program's first since 2006, over Largo. That game featured Palmetto's ball-hawking defense to generate a rout.

On Monday, the exact same game plan unfolded albeit with a slight wrinkle.

The twist was the Packers (1-18) started with two consecutive baskets to grab an early 5-0 lead.

That forced Kelly to burn an early time out, and he reiterated the message to get his club concentrating on the task of pummeling Largo with their defense.

"I told them they needed to get themselves under control," Kelly said. "This team had no business being ahead of us."

It worked as the Tigers took their first lead midway through the first quarter and never looked back. The Packers did trim their deficit to seven points late in the second quarter, before Palmetto firmly put its foot on the gas pedal, turning the game into a run-and-gun offensive display off several Largo turnovers.

In fact, the Packers tallied 25 first-half turnovers and 34 for the game.

"That's what we focus on in practice," said Kelly, who lost his starting guard Alyssa Ward to a torn anterior cruciate ligament earlier this season. "We always were a transition team. We always were a press team. And this year we kind of got away from it with Alyssa Ward being out, that kind of changed everything. And we're trying to get it back now and we used it at the end of the first half, and you see what developed."

During that late first half burst, where Palmetto reeled off a 13-2 run over the final 2:31, the Tigers used a bevy of scorers to widen its lead.

And that balanced scoring was true for the entire game as the Tigers had three players score double figure points, with another three close to reaching the plateau.

Breanna Gordon led the attack with 13 points. Jermisha Collins (11 points) and Lex Washington (10) joined Gordon with solid outputs.

So now the No. 4-seeded Tigers turn their attention north to top-seeded Seminole Osceola in the district semifinals. Palmetto defeated Osceola during the regular season, but Wednesday's meeting will occur on the road and in a one-and-done atmosphere.

However, the plan will remain the same as in Monday's blowout of Largo.

"We've got a few changes we need to make," Kelly said. "But other than that, the game plan is going to be the same. Press, run the ball and make good passes."

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