LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch girls basketball team commits too many turnovers, according to head coach Tina Hadley.
"The way we take care of the ball I have no idea how we've won 20 games," Hadley said after her Mustangs eliminated visiting Palmetto 76-51 in the Class 7A-District 10 tournament semifinal final Wednesday night.
Hadley said her Mustangs (20-6) were sloppy with the ball again. But the ace in the hole for this team is that it usually forces more turnovers than it commits.
Lakewood Ranch forced 14 Palmetto turnovers in the first half and scored 15 points off them to take a comfortable 36-24 lead at the break.
The turnovers were needed because 6-foot-3 LaDazhia Williams, the Mustangs' leading scorer and rebounder, was saddled with foul trouble.
"I loved our intensity on defense, but we still have to take care of the ball," Hadley said. "We need to work on that. I am shocked our record is as good as it because we just don't do a good job of taking care of the ball."
Another issue for Lakewood Ranch is keeping Williams out of foul trouble. She scored 20 points and had eight rebounds despite playing less than half the game because of fouls.
"LaDazhia is just a freshman
and makes mistakes. She has to learn how to play without fouling," Hadley said. "She tries to use her athleticism when it comes to playing in the middle of the floor instead of using technique like turn and box out. She wants to jump, and now she is coming over people's backs. You have to play disciplined basketball."
Hadley coached the program to its first district title last year and will be going for the Mustangs' second straight Friday night when it plays host to Sarasota. Lakewood Ranch beat the Sailors twice this season in two meetings.
Williams scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Emily Bulfin led the Mustangs with 26 points and had five steals. Megan Hagy had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and point guard Kailyn Scully dished out seven assists.
Lakewood Ranch led 43-25 with 5 minutes, 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Palmetto stayed within striking distance and trailed 52-38 with 7:05 remaining in the game when the Mustangs scored eight unanswered points to break it open at 60-38 about midway through the final quarter.
"I need to play smart. I have a team that is depending on me," Williams said. "Tonight, I had stupid fouls. I know better to keep my hands up and not reach in. I got an over-the-back call. It's very frustrating."
Palmetto finished its season at 17-10. Jermisha Collins led the Tigers with 13 points, and senior Jasmin Garibay ended her career with 10 points.
The Tigers return the bulk of their team, and head coach Robert Kelly said he is very optimistic about the future.
"I believe we are going to be the team to beat next year. We have a great nucleus coming back with a lot of girls who gained valuable experience," Kelly said. "We have a lot of talented kids returning. I saw a lot of things go right. I saw a lot of things we didn't do well tonight, but it comes from inexperience. A lot of girls on this team never played varsity before, and they learned on the go."