Citrus' zone defense too much for Eastside

Eastside's Jasmine Thomas (24) drives the ball up court during the Class 5A, Region 2 semifinal game against Citrus.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:13 p.m.

Eastside girls coach Lance Radford knew going into Tuesday's Region 2-5A semifinal what his team would see against Inverness Citrus — lots of zone defense.

The key to success would be to penetrate inside. That happened very little for the Rams.

Eastside didn't score in double figures in any period as the Rams fell to the Hurricanes, 42-30, as Citrus advanced to its first regional final since 1994, set for Saturday against visiting Land O'Lakes.

“We knew going in they were pretty good defensively,” Radford said. “We had to be able to be able to penetrate their zone and we wanted to get the ball to the baseline. We wanted to attack with our penetration, but we didn't do a very good job all night long.

“Everything was extended out to the 3-point line. We didn't get anything inside.”

Eastside (13-11) led only once in this game, 8-7, after senior Jasmine Thomas, who had a game-high 18 points, scored off a rebound. After a couple of ties, Citrus (25-3) closed the first half on a 5-0 run for a 19-14 lead at break.

The Hurricanes added to that lead in the third, again closing strong with three straight baskets from Treleasha Simmons, who finished with a team-high 12 points, for a commanding 32-21 advantage going into the final period.

Citrus stretched the lead to 16, 39-23, after a pair of free throws from Simmons.

“We thought we were in pretty good position at halftime, but we came out a little flat in the second half,” Radford said. “One of our goals was to get to the free-throw line before them, but they beat us to the punch. They were a little more aggressive and calls went their way. Sometimes that is just how it is.”

The Hurricanes had never won a state playoff game in girls basketball before this year, under first-year coach David Hamilton. Now they are one game from the state tournament.

“I have told them all along that defense wins championships. I firmly believe that,” Hamilton said. “They step up when they have to, they dig a little deeper. Everything has been good for us. This was a tough Gainesville Eastside school. They are going to be a team to be reckoned with next year.”

Radford said he is looking forward to next season with the return of most of his players.

“Everyone but Jas is back,” Radford said. “Jasmine did a great job, she played hard in the last part of the season. She wasn't ready for the season to end. They all want to get better every day.”

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