LAKEWOOD RANCH - Before they hopped in the car and drove away from Lakewood Ranch High for the night, Jenny Tobar and fellow senior Megan Ketchum took one final moment to savor what happened 20 minutes earlier.
The frenzy of the final minutes of the game had calmed, and surprise had died down, but the excitement, it was still very much with the girls. Tobar and Ketchum hugged and screeched with joy like they were back in elementary school, which was in a way appropriate because the last time a Manatee County team beat Southeast's girls basketball team, that's exactly where they were.
Thursday night, the streak ended.
With a 51-47 victory, Lakewood Ranch stopped 73 games of Manatee County futility at the hands of the Noles and their coach, John Harder. Southeast's run lasted just more than 10 years and began long before Lakewood Ranch High was constructed.
The Mustangs were the first county team to beat Southeast since Palmetto defeated the Seminoles 52-47 on Jan. 7, 1997.
"This is huge for them, especially my seniors, and those are my two seniors," said Southeast graduate and Lakewood Ranch coach Tina Hadley, pointing to Ketchum and Tobar in the parking lot. "They are so hyped. They said they really wanted to do this for me, and I wanted them to do it for them because they never beat (Southeast) before."
Tobar scored 11 points and kept the pressure on Southeast all night. She said beating Manatee earlier this year was a big victory but not on par with a win against the Noles.
"Everyone wants to beat Southeast," Tobar said. "I think we wanted it more than them. We were looking forward to it all day and trying to get pumped up for it all day. It worked out for us."
After scoring 12 points, freshman forward Breanna Lindsey summed up her excitement with two words.
"It's Southeast," she said, sounding surprised and proud at the same time.
Gracious in defeat, Harder said Thursday's game wasn't about the end of the Noles' streak but about the team that snapped it.
"I was proud of Lakewood Ranch," Harder said. "They were well coached, and they played a great game plan. They were intense, and they built up a good lead. That was a good game on the part of the Mustangs. They were very deserving of this win."
The Mustangs (9-11, 4-7 Class 5A-District 11) led almost the entire evening and held a 12-point lead at one point in the second half. But Southeast stormed back with its trademark pressure defense and tied the game at 45 when Kasondra Simmons made a layup with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter.
"It didn't cross my mind at all when we were out there playing," Hadley said of the streak. "It didn't dawn on me until there were two minutes left in the game. (Junior varsity coach Sara Gobczynski) reminded me of it. I thought that I had to call a timeout. I gotta tell them this is huge."
Shenise Gallon, who scored seven crucial points in the fourth quarter, gave the Mustangs the lead back with a basket. Becca Seay, who finished with a team-high 16 points, made a layup with 45 second left to put Lakewood Ranch up 49-45 as the Mustangs held off the rally with two more points from the free-throw line.
Gallon, a junior, hit two huge shots, one a 3-pointer, after the Noles' initial fourth-quarter rally got them within three points at 36-33.
"I'm excited," said Gallon, still swaying back and forth with adrenaline. "They hadn't lost a game in 73, and Coach said to put a stop to it. We knew we could do it. We've had so many ups and downs, but this was the game we were ready for."
Harder said he couldn't dwell on the loss too long because the Noles (10-9, 6-5) have another district game with Manatee today.
"This gives me a chance to start all over again," Harder said. "This Hall of Fame ring I'm wearing is telling me I'm at the tail end of my career, and a loss (Thursday) tells me I have to work harder, I have to get back in it and figure out what I need to do to start a new streak. It doesn't give me much time to suffer."
As a Harder protégé and Southeast state champ, Hadley knows how difficult it is to beat the Noles. She's excited about what it means to the Mustangs program.
"That was just a great boost to the ego of my kids," Hadley said. "You wanna talk about a confidence boost, wow."
SOUTHEAST (47) - Jamyriah McPherson 1 0-0 3, LaDaisha Holloway 4 1-3 9, Bianca Hanna 4 8-12 16, Keimara Brooks 0 0-2 0, Breona Siplin 2 0-0 4, Kayla Rivers 3 0-0 8, Carolyn Taite 0 0-0 0, Kasondra Simmons 2 3-4 7. Totals: 16 12-21 47.
LAKEWOOD RANCH (51) - Brisha Walker 0 0-0 0, Shenise Gallon 4 0-3 10, Becca Seay 7 1-2 16, Jenny Tobar 4 3-6 11, Megan Ketchum 1 0-0 2, Breanna Lindsey 2 8-11 12, Julia Samus 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 12-22 51.
Southeast 7 8 14 18 - 47
Lakewood Ranch 9 13 14 15 - 51
3-pointers: Southeast 3 (Rivers 2, McPherson); Lakewood Ranch 3 (Gallon 2, Seay). Total fouls: Southeast 19; Lakewood Ranch 16. Records: Southeast 10-9, 6-5; Lakewood Ranch 9-11, 4-7.