LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch was coasting along and looking to take an eight-point lead into halftime when Sarasota's Camille Giardina nailed a trey at the buzzer.
It appeared to be nothing more than annoyance for the Mustangs, who had beaten Sarasota twice this season.
But Giardina rode that shot to a 24-point night and led the Sailors to a 57-47 victory
over the host Mustangs in the Class 7A-District 10 championship game Friday.
Never miss a local story.
It was Giardina's best game against Lakewood Ranch, and the former Cardinal Mooney showed why she is one of the area's top players.
Lakewood Ranch (20-7) played without starter Megan Hagy, a 5-foot-11 sophomore and second-leading rebounder. Mustangs head coach Tina Hadley would not comment on her absence, but it was evident she was missed.
The burden down low fell on freshman LaDazhia Williams, who finished with 24 points and 20 rebounds. She failed to score in the third quarter, when Lakewood Ranch was outscored 19-6 and went into the fourth period trailing 41-33.
"We were behind and when I hit that three it gave us momentum," Giardina said. "I wanted it and was going to do anything it took to win. I shoot when I can and do what my team needs me to do. The difference tonight and the two times we played during the season was all mental. We came out with belief we could beat them."
Sarasota (23-4) couldn't keep up with Williams in the first half. The 6-3 center outraced everybody down court for easy layups and dropped in 6 of 10 shots to put up 13 points despite shooting only 1 for 6 from the free-throw line.
Lakewood Ranch led 27-22 at halftime, but Sarasota went on an 8-2 run to take a 30-29 lead with 5 minutes, 3 seconds left in the third quarter. Giardina scored six of the points and dished off to Zaharia Grable for a layup after driving the lane.
Lakewood Ranch led 31-30 midway through the third quarter when Sarasota closed out the period on an 11-2 run that included nailing 3 of 4 attempts from beyond the arc. The Mustangs shot 2 for 13 from the field in the period.
"I thought we played well. We did not take care of the ball at the end of the game, and that is what caused the loss," Lakewood Ranch head coach Tina Hadley said. "We have to regroup and prepare for the next game and hopefully we will see them again. Our goal was to make sure we stayed in front of Camille. She didn't have a lot of points the first two times we played them, but was very good tonight."
Lakewood Ranch hurt itself at the free-throw line, converting only 5 of 14 from the charity stripe. The Mustangs were forced to foul in the fourth quarter. Leading 50-42 with 1:22 left in the game, Grable nailed four straight free throws to put the game out of reach, and the Sailors finished 13-21 at the foul line.
Emily Bulfin was the only other Lakewood Ranch player in double figures with 15 points. Grable had 17 for Sarasota, and Shelby Miller had 12 points.
"LaDazhia played well and stayed out of foul trouble, which I asked her to do," Hadley said. "We've just got to keep our composure and take care of the ball at the end of the game; that was our demise. Our free-throw shooting was awful, and we missed a tremendous amount of layups. If we had made free throws and layups, we would've been up by 20 at halftime."
Lakewood Ranch will be on the road at 7 p.m. Thursday against Clearwater in a region quarterfinal game. Sarasota will host St. Petersburg Northeast.