BRADENTON -- There was one second remaining in the third quarter when the consolation final of the 11th Annual Willie Clemons Holiday Classic took a dramatic turn.
Jermisha Collins, Palmetto's electrifying senior who helped stake the Tigers to a lead over host Southeast, committed her fifth foul. And as Palmetto's most experienced player watched from the sideline, the Seminoles engineered a huge fourth-quarter run and rolled to a 66-52 victory.
Would the outcome have been different had Collins, who managed to score 27 points in three quarters and landed
on the all-tournament, been in the game at the end?
No one will know for sure. But Southeast coach John Harder said he would have liked his team's chances with or without Collins in the lineup.
"I felt bad for the Tigers on that because she's their go-to girl, she's their spark. I was not able to stop her," Harder said. "I still think we were OK. ... I felt very comfortable about what we were accomplishing. We were nickel-and-diming it, as we often do.
"It took a team effort in the second half to win the game. I don't want it to be thought that because she fouled out, we won the game. We won the game because our players played extremely well when they needed to."
Later in the day, Clearwater Calvary Christian claimed the Clemons championship with a 66-35 victory over Lakeland Kathleen. Riverview claimed third place by defeating Gulfport Boca Ciega 61-47.
The Tigers led 45-37 when Collins fouled out and took a 52-43 lead on Destine Johnson's layup with roughly five minutes remaining in the game.
"She was running out of the way because she knows she had a certain amount of fouls," Tigers coach Robert Kelly said. "She tried to avoid the foul at all cost."
Then it was all Southeast. The Seminoles closed the game on a 23-0 run, taking the lead for good on Johnelle Clark's basket at the 3:42 mark.
Fueling the comeback was junior Breyonna Reed and sophomore Tay Green, the Noles' representatives on the all-tournament team. Reed finished with 16 points and canned consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter while Green had 12.
Green's impressive spurt came when she hit a pair of free throws, swiped Palmetto's inbounds pass and netted a jumper to cut Southeast's deficit to 52-47 with 4:53 to go.
"I like playing with young people because they don't ever give up," said Reed, the lone returning starter from last year's Class 5A state championship team. "There's no stop in their momentum; they just keep going. If you believe in them, they'll just keep going."
Palmetto (12-7) took a 33-18 lead into halftime after outscoring Southeast 20-4 during the second quarter. Collins had 13 points in the period.
"It's just like what happened if Brett Favre or Tom Brady or one of them goes down in the game," Kelly said, referring to the loss of Collins. "It is what it is. ... You've got to step up. If your leader goes down, you've still got to step up and play. I'm not going to make an excuse for it. It was our game, and we gave it to them. ... There's a lot of other things you have to take under consideration, but I don't feel like saying anything at this time."
Connor Rozier had eight points for Palmetto, which gets another crack at Southeast on Jan. 23.
Sophie Giardina added 11 points for the Noles.
"They were not playing Southeast ball at all in the first half, and I didn't want it to end that way for them," Harder said. "They got the message at halftime, and they really responded well in the second half. So that's a nice way to finish this tournament."
EAST BAY 42, BRADEN RIVER 26 -- The Pirates lost in the seventh-place game.
Aleah Grabowski had nine points, and Larissa LaBolt had five for Braden River (0-15). LaBolt was picked for the all-tournament team.