VENICE - With Southeast High's streak of seven straight district titles on the line, Bianca Hanna wanted the ball in her hands, and Noles coach John Harder was more than happy to oblige.
Only a freshman, Hanna didn't feel the nerves. She felt responsibility. She's the future of Southeast basketball, but she's also pretty good in the present.
Hanna scored seven of her 18 points in the four-minute overtime to lead the Noles to a 34-31 victory over Venice.
Southeast struggled from the free-throw line all night, but in the four-minute overtime period, Hanna made 5 of 6 to put the game away.
"I just concentrated and didn't listen to the crowd," Hanna said. "Coach told them to get the ball to me because I'm the best free-throw shooter and I can make plays happen."
Hanna and senior Breona Siplin combined for all 11 of the Noles' overtime points in the victory.
"(Hanna) is my best shooter and she's leading the team and close to leading the county," said Harder, who also lauded Hanna's defense. "She's a clutch shooter. I coach her and I know her. We were going to the free-throw line and it was going to be in her hands, one way or another."
With the win, the Noles advanced to Saturday's Class 5A-District 12 final, where they will play top-seeded North Port.
Southeast did not hold a lead in the game, until Siplin stole a pass and made a lay-up in the first minute of overtime. She also added a put-back shot to give her four points in the first two minutes of the OT, after she scored only two in regulation.
The Noles trailed by two at halftime, largely due to their inability to convert from the free throw line. Through the first 16 minutes, Southeast missed 15 shots from the line, including 12 in the second quarter.
Though Southeast dominated the boards in the early going, the girls also struggled to make put backs and lay-ups, allowing the Indians, who jumped out to an early 10-5 lead, to stay in the game even though they did not make a field goal in the second quarter.
In the second half, the Noles improved from the line, making 7-of-13, but they still had a difficult time getting into their offense with the aggressive on-ball defense from the Indians ruining the flow.
The Noles somehow managed to win despite all that went wrong.
"Most teams would have folded . . . but we hung in there and hung in there and took it to overtime," Harder said. "Then I had great confidence would could do it."
VENICE (31) - Natalie Gaudreau 5 3-4 14, Lauren Ramey 1 0-0 2, Lindsay Reigstecker 2 0-0 5, Kaylee Ream 1 2-4 4, Diana Mesherle 1 0-2 2, Kim Pinkerton 1 1-2 3, Jen Thoennssen 0 0-0 0, Kristen Walchle 0 0-0 0, Chloe West 0 1-2 1. Totals: 11 7-14 31.
SOUTHEAST (34) - Jamyriah McPherson 0 0-2 0, LaDaisha Holloway 1 0-3 2, Bianca Hanna 4 10-17 18, Keimara Brooks 3 2-10 8, Breona Siplin 2 2-4 6, Kayla Rivers 0 0-0 0, Carolyn Taite 0 1-2 1, Kasondra Simmons 0 0-3 0. Totals: 10 15-40 35.
Venice 10 3 9 2 7 - 31
Southeast 5 6 8 5 11 - 34
3-pointers: Venice 2 (Reigstecker, Gaudreau); Team fouls: Southeast 20, Venice 27. Technical fouls: Venice (team); Fouled out: Gaudreau, Mesherle (Venice). Records: Southeast 17-9, Venice 14-10.
North Port 52, Manatee 46
The Canes squandered a 13-point second-half lead to the top-seeded Bobcats, who were led by Chelsea Johnson's 22 points, nine of which came in the final quarter.
North Port trailed 37-24 after two minutes of the third quarter, but the Canes scored only nine points the rest of the way.
Megan Dzikas led the Canes (13-12) with 18 points, but no other players reached double figures for Manatee.
North Port took its first lead at 48-46 when Chelsea Johnson hit a jumper with 1:55 left in the game.
Manatee coach Flo Brazukas said her team had played very well the last couple weeks of the season and it carried over into the early going of Thursday's game. But she thinks the intensity the Canes played with to grab the lead wore the girls down in the final 16 minutes as they could muster only 14 total points and four field goals.
"We got a little sloppy and careless with the ball," Brazukas said. "That's the way to finish (the season). This past week it's been beautiful, beautiful and they were clicking on Monday night and (Thursday at the start). Next year, I'm anxious, but I'd like to have gotten that one."
Manatee should be among the favorites to win district next year as they lose only one senior and return Dzikas, Christina Natali (nine points), Courtney McDonald (seven) and Taylor Mealy (six) among others.
MANATEE (46) - Megan Dzikas 8 0-0 18, Courtney McDonald 3 1-4 7, Diana Nelson 0 0-0 0, Christina Natali 3 1-2 9, Kapri Ragin 2 1-4 5, Taylor Mealy 2 2-6 6, Karen Dykes 0 1-2 1.Totals: 18 6-18 46.
NORTH PORT (52) - Tara Gilot 0 3-6 3, Brittany Konik 1 0-0 2, Gaby Paraguez 1 0-0 3, Vanessa Price 0 0-0 0, Chelsea Johnson 9 2-4 22, Rheisa Burke 6 3-6 15, Secoya Black 0 0-0 0, M'risha Thomas 4 0-0 8. Totals: 21 9-19 52.
Manatee 15 18 6 7 - 46
North Port 15 8 12 17 - 52
3-pointers: Manatee 4 (Dzikas 2, Natali 2); North Port 2 (Johnson 2). Total fouls: Manatee 14; North Port 12. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: Manatee (team). Records: Manatee 13-12; North Port 14-7.