Girls basketball | Southeast earns shot to extend district title streak

BRADENTON -- It wasn’t pretty, but at this time of year the only thing that matters for the Southeast High girls basketball team is putting another number in the victory column.

The host Seminoles almost blew a big lead, but managed to hang on for a 45-35 victory over St. Petersburg Gibbs on Wednesday night in a Class 5A-District 12 semifinal contest.

The victory sends Southeast to defending Class 4A state champion St. Petersburg Lakewood (15-10) on Friday night. The Seminoles will go for their 13th straight district championship in trying to extend one of the longest streaks in the state.

Longtime coach John Harder is still fuming that his top-seeded team has to go on the road, but he has accepted the seed and earned that and should be at home, but because Pinellas County has four teams in our district (Manatee County has two) we are going on the road,” Harder said. “They will also be using their refs, and I continue to say it’s not right, but we are going to play. This is what we practice 51 weeks to do, get a win in what will be the biggest game of the year for us. It will be an upset for us to win in St. Petersburg.”

Harder hopes he gets more of a complete game effort from this team, which took a 27-6 halftime lead and then seemed to lose its energy as the Gladiators (12-12) climbed back and cut their deficit to 33-26 with 6:45 left in the game.

Southeast (22-4) woke up at the right time and took advantage of its free throw opportunities to pull out the win. The Noles converted 18 of 36 from the charity stripe and were 9-for-20 in the fourth quarter.

Keshawna Robinson scored 14 of her game-high 17 points in the first half, dominating the point by converting 6 of 9 field goal attempts.

“In the first half, I was focused and not focused in the second half. I couldn’t concentrate because of personal things,” Robinson said. “Against Lakewood, we’ve got to play hard.”

After shooting 9-for-14 in the first half, Southeast managed to connect on only 4 of 17 shots after intermission and had 11 turnovers compared to seven in the first two periods,

Trailing 32-19 heading into the fourth quarter, Gibbs outscored Southeast 7-1 at the outset of the final period. Southeast responded with six free throws, then Robinson drove in for a layup to push the lead to 40-26 with 3:52 remaining.

Noles leading scorer DeAngela Mathis picked up the scoring slack in the second half with 13 points after being limited to two in the first half. Guards Bevin Mays had eight points, and Janelle Gould had five rebounds.

The Southeast defense did its job, forcing 22 Gibbs turnovers and limiting the Gladiators to 11 field goals in 52 shots.