FORT MYERS -- There were a couple major differences between the Fort Myers team Lakewood Ranch defeated in November and the one that showed up to meet the Mustangs on Saturday in their first region final.
Head coach Jimmy Roberts was an assistant in the first meeting, assuming control of the team Jan. 13 after the previous coach stepped down for personal reasons.
And freshman point guard Destanni Henderson was out with an injury during Ranch's 58-46 win early in the season.
Henderson's team-high 15 points came in handy Saturday, but it was her play at the top of a devastating press that paved the way for the Green Wave's 55-51 victory in the 7A-3 championship game.
The press helped force 18 Lakewood Ranch turnovers and keyed a pair of runs that gave Fort Myers control of the game.
"We turned the ball over entirely too much. We can't have that many turnovers in a game like this," Lakewood Ranch head coach Tina Hadley said.
Henderson also made the play that put the Green Wave (21-6) up for good after the Mustangs (20-10) erased a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
After India Searls completed a three-point play to tie the game at 49 with 49.4 seconds left, Henderson grabbed the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the floor for a layup.
Lakewood Ranch then turned the ball over on the press, and the Green Wave salted the game away,
"She was definitely a force on the floor, yeah," Hadley said of Henderson. "I was impressed with her maturity as a freshman. You see a lot of freshmen that are skilled, but they're not necessarily mature. I thought she played a mature game."
Another factor was Fort Myers' defense against Ranch's 6-foot-3 post player LaDazhia Williams, who scored 34 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the first meeting. Williams scored 12 points and managed 17 boards Saturday.
"We didn't do a good job defensively," Roberts said of the first game. "I watched that game at least three or four times this week, and the one thing we talked about was defense, defense, defense."
Lakewood Ranch got off to a good start, leading 19-12 after one quarter thanks to six points from Kyra Klarkowski. A Williams bucket gave the Mustangs their biggest lead at 21-12 early in the second quarter.
Ranch led 26-22 with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the half before the first of Fort Myers' blitzes paid off. The Mustangs turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, and Henderson scored a pair of buckets to key a 6-0 run that gave the Wave a 28-26 halftime lead.
Fort Myers went scoreless for the first 4:25 of the third quarter, handing the Mustangs a 31-28 lead. But Williams picked up fouls two, three and four in the same span and was sent to the bench for the remainder of the quarter.
"I had no problemm with those fouls," Roberts said with a smile. "She's a very good player."
The Green Wave outscored the Mustangs 14-5 for the remainder of the quarter. The press led another 6-0 run to end the period and send Fort Myers into the fourth quarter up 42-36.
"I thought we actually played well while she was on the bench," Hadley said of Williams. "We played tough; we rebounded the ball; we were able to continue to score the baskets. We have to make the free throws, and we can't turn the ball over."
Fort Myers opened the fourth quarter in a stall and took its biggest lead at 48-41 with 5:08 to play.
But Klarkowski, who hadn't scored since the opening quarter, scored five consecutive points to get the Mustangs within two. After a Wave free throw, Searls made her three-point play and knotted the game.
Enter Henderson with the big play. Exit Lakewood Ranch.
Klarkowski scored 11 points, and Kailyn Scully had eight for the Mustangs. Aleah Robinson scored seven points and had 10 rebounds.
There is consolation for Lakewood Ranch. The Mustangs return everybody from a team that made the deepest tournament run in school history.
"I thought our season turned out well," Hadley said. "We started out well, then we were a little bumpy in the middle, then we peaked at the right time."