BRADENTON -- Southeast beat Bayshore handily twice during the regular season. In fact, the Seminoles had not lost to the Bruins in the 30-plus years John Harder has been their head coach.
It's why Harder felt anxious Wednesday during their Class 5A-District 11 semifinal.
Southeast emerged with a 62-51 victory, but pesky Bayshore would not go away. The Bruins played better than in Southeast's 34- and 19-point victories during the regular season.
The win sets up a title game with longtime nemesis St. Petersburg Lakewood.
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"Our girls played well enough to win. They had beaten Bayshore twice and are going to need to be more focused for Friday,"
Harder said. "This was what it is supposed to be when you've beaten someone as we did the first two times. I wanted to make sure all our subs got in. Fifteen played and 10 of them scored in the first half. This was big game. Anybody can get to the finals."
Every time Southeast (22-3) looked as if it was going to put the nail in the coffin, Bayshore (11-15) came back to keep things close.
The Seminoles led 42-22 in the first two minutes of the second half. But Bayshore started taking the ball to the basket, resulting in a 10-1 run to cut its deficit to 43-32. The Noles pushed the lead to 54-34, but Bayshore kept coming to make the final margin respectable.
Shauntavia Green and Breyonna Reed, Southeast's two top scorers, were straddled with foul trouble, but did enough to keep Bayshore from getting too close.
Green finished with 16 points, seven steals, four rebounds and three assists. Reed had 12 points, six assists and two steals. Marlin Valcin had six points and 13 rebounds.
Harder brought up four girls from the 21-1 junior varsity squad, and they helped with a depth problem that plagued the varsity this season.
"To bring them up makes our varsity stronger. But I wanted to keep them together because it was like a sisterhood there. They hit some big shots," Harder said. "Everything is on the line Friday. Lakewood has a big height advantage over us, and we have to use our quickness to compensate. We have to be more focused that we were tonight."
The game was the final one for Bayshore senior JoJo Muldoon, who finished with 14 points. She averaged 9.7 points and 10.7 rebounds this season.
For Bayshore, junior Alexus Norman contributed 15 points, including 10 in the second half to keep the Bruins within striking distance.
"We let a few slip away from us early in the season that we should've won. If we played like we did tonight we would've won five or six more games," Bayshore head coach Jamaal Sanders said. "I am proud of the girls. They showed up tonight and they fought. We have a lot to build on for next year."
Southeast led 34-20 at halftime after limiting Bayshore to 5 for 20 shooting and forcing 11 turnovers. But the Bruins connected on 7 of 8 field goal attempts in the third quarter behind Norman who hit all three of her shots to climb back into the game.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.