PALMETTO - Palmetto High senior guards Taneya Woodie and Hadassah Pope shared the same emotion after the Tigers' girls basketball team fell a game short of advancing to next week's Class 4A regional quarterfinal.
"It's heartbreaking, because we thought we would come back Saturday and play Sebring for the (Class 4A-District 10) championship," said Woodie, who led all scorers with 21 points in the Tigers' 55-37 loss against Avon Park. "But in the end, (the Red Devils) wanted it more than we did."
"It hurts," said Pope, who was held to eight points. "We broke down in areas, but every team has to grow and improve."
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In the early stages Thursday, it appeared Palmetto (17-8) might be hitting a vital growth spurt at just the right time.
In the final 30 seconds of the first quarter, Woodie delivered a no-look pass to Brittany Williams for an easy basket and an 11-9 Palmetto lead. On Palmetto's next possession, Woodie faked a defender to the floor before scoring for a four-point lead.
Woodie scored the first basket of the second quarter, putting the Tigers ahead 15-10. From that point, however, the Red Devils' height advantage proved paramount, as the visitors (17-5) overcame poor outside shooting by converting numerous second and third-shot opportunities.
A 3-pointer by Beonca Godfrey 5 seconds before halftime gave Avon Park a 32-23 lead, and the Tigers never seemed to recover. They trudged onto the floor after the break, not even bothering to take a few practice shots.
The Tigers' bench managed only two points.
Avon Park returns to Palmetto at 7 p.m. on Saturday to face Sebring for the district title. Sebring (23-0) defeated Sarasota Booker 56-34 in the other semifinal.
"We knew what we had to do. We worked on it, but we just didn't get it done. No excuses," said Palmetto coach Robert Kelly. "Taneya did a great job, but we needed everyone else to step up and play along with her."
Shantavia Sims, who at 5-feet-11 towered over the Tigers, scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds - only six fewer than the Palmetto team.
"Our inside game and our rebounding are kind of our bread-and-butter," said Avon Park coach Paulette Daley. "I think they'd do even better if they had a scratch-and-go mentality and went after it a little harder."
AVON PARK (55) - Beonca Godfrey 4 0-3 11, Kysi Wooden 1 2-6 4, Alencia Williams 0 1-2 1, Shantavia Sims 7 5-5 19, Daija Barrett 5 0-0 10, Ja'mee Hawthorne 2 0-0 6, Breanna Tate 1 2-2 4. Totals: 20 10-18 55.
PALMETTO (37) - Hadassah Pope 3 2-2 8, Taneya Woodie 9 3-4 21, Amanda Green 2 0-0 4, Brittany Williams 1 0-0 2, Kasey Coleman 0 0-0 0, Brittany Thomas 0 0-0 0, Tisha Brinson 0 0-0 0, Ashley Hodo 0 0-0 0, Starcee Brown 0 0-0 0, Virginia Tillman 0 0-0 0, LaWanna Peterson 1 0-0 2, Jasmine Thomas 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 5-6 37.
Avon Park 10 22 16 7 - 55
Palmetto 13 10 8 6 - 37
3-pointers: Avon Park 5 (Godfrey 3, Hawthorne 2). Total fouls: Avon Park 10, Palmetto 16. Records: Avon Park 17-5, Palmetto 17-8.