Gulf Coast smashes TCC, advances to title game
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at 5:31 PM
By Dustin Kent, The News Herald
OCALA — Going into the FCSAA State Basketball Championships, Gulf Coast coach Roonie Scovel knew her team could have an especially tough road to the title with potential matchups against two of the top nine teams in the nation in Tallahassee and Chipola.
Through the first two rounds of competition, however, the road has been pretty clear for the No. 3 Lady Commodores (29-2), who registered their second straight lopsided victory Friday afternoon with a 99-69 blowout of No. 9 Tallahassee (23-9) in the tournament semifinals.
With the win, Gulf Coast advances to Saturday's championship game against No. 5 Chipola at 4 p.m. CST. The Lady Indians earned their spot in the title round with a 67-47 semifinal victory over Santa Fe.
Taylor Emery scored 35 points to lead Gulf Coast, with Maria Castro adding 24 and nine rebounds, and Shayla Bennett 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists, as the Lady Commodores shot a scorching 55 percent from the field for the game and made 9 of 20 from the 3-point line.
Gulf Coast also limited TCC to just 32 percent from the field for the game, including 8 of 33 from deep. Scovel said Friday's performance ranks as one of if not the best of the season for the Lady Commodores.
"Yeah, I would say so, especially with it coming against a very good team like Tallahassee," she said. "We played well, shot well; to beat them by that much was outstanding."
Gulf Coast wasted little time seizing control of the game, using a 29-point first quarter to race out to an early 17-point advantage. Castro set the tone early with 12 first quarter points on three 3-pointers, putting GC ahead for good with her first to make it 5-2, and making it 23-7 with her third. She later added a conventional three-point play after a nice spin move in the paint to put the lead at 26-10.
The Lady Commodores cooled off somewhat in the second quarter and Tallahassee's Lawriell Wilson heated up, putting in 19 of her 25 first-half points with an array of drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers, and 3-pointers, as Gulf Coast struggled to find any answers in defending the Panhandle Conference's Player of the Year.
Unfortunately for Wilson, who finished with 29 points, she didn't get much help from her teammates early on, with Jas Hill's five points and Japonica James' one the only other TCC scores in the first half.
The Lady Eagles briefly got the deficit down to 12 with 7:33 to halftime after a pull-up jumper by Wilson, but a driving basket by Bennett and consecutive mid-range jumpers by Emery quickly pushed the lead back to 16 at 37-21.
The margin was 15 at halftime and the Lady Commodores stretched the lead out further in the third quarter, with five straight points by Bennett and a three from Castro making it 60-39 with 6:10 left in the quarter.
TCC got it back to 65-50 on a basket by Shaigna Wentz, but GulfCoast closed the third quarter with six straight points on an offensive putback by LaSonja Edwards, a driving layup by Ty Purifoy, and a steal and layup at the buzzer by Bennett to make it 71-50.
Castro's fourth 3-pointer of the day made it 78-55, with a basket by Bennett, and then a three-point play and baseline jumper by Emery putting GC up 85-57 with 6:08 to play. Emery made 14 of 20 shots from the field to post her season-best 35 points, but Scovel said it was the all-around play of Castro that may have been most important to Friday's win.
"Maria was big. She may have been the MVP of the game because she had to do so many things," Scovel said. "Taylor did her normal thing, which is hitting shots and scoring a lot of points, but Maria was huge. She had to handle the ball, get big rebounds, and she scored. She just did a great job."
Edwards also had nine points and seven rebounds for Gulf Coast, with Hill adding 17 points and James 14 for TCC.
Up next for the Lady Commodores is another conference rival in the Lady Indians, who beat them 72-62 in Panama City in their last meeting Feb. 11. Chipola plays a more physical brand of defense than TCC and Scovel said her players will have to be mentally and emotionally ready for the challenge in their third game in four days.
"We played well Wednesday and even better today, so hopefully we've got a little something left," she said. "I don't know if we do; we had to expend a lot of energy today. It's going to be emotional. Whether we've got enough physical energy to finish it off, I don't know. We're just going to go play and see what we've got left. If we go play well like we did today, then we'll have a chance
Murphy 0 0-0 0, Jenije 1 0-0 2, Hill 6 0-0 17, James 6 2-4 14, Daniels 0 0-0 0, Wilson 10 7-8 29, John 0 0-0 0, Wentz 3 0-0 7, Gaines 0 0-0 0, Ulbe 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 9-12 69.
GULF COAST (99)
Fox 0 0-0 0, Purifoy 2 0-0 4, Emery 14 5-7 35, O'Neal 1 0-0 2, Bennett 8 4-4 22, Castro 9 1-1 24, Dunlap 1 1-2 3, Edwards 3 3-6 9. Totals: 38 14-20 99.
Tallahassee 12 19 19 19 — 69
Gulf Coast 29 17 25 28 — 99
3-point field goals: Gulf Coast 9 (Castro 5, Bennett 2, Emery 2), Tallahassee 8 (Hill 5, Wilson 2, Wentz). Total fouls: Tallahassee 20, Gulf Coast 14. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.