Citrus' zone defense too much for Rams girls

Season is over for the team

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:09 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.

Larry Savage is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

Crystal River game

It was the Jasmine Thomas show in the second half of the Florida High School Athletic Association state regional quarterfinal girls basketball game between Eastside High School and Crystal River High School.

Thomas led the Lady Rams (13-10) to a 67-51 win over Crystal River last Thursday (24-3) and hosted Citrus High School Tuesday night in a regional semifinal game. Thomas, a senior point guard, scored 30 points on 12 of 18 shooting, with her biggest basket of the game coming after Crystal River tied the game at 35-35 with 2:59 left in the third period. Thomas then went on an offensive attack that sparked a 14-0 run by Eastside. Thomas hit two two-point baskets before sinking a three-pointer to put Eastside ahead 42-35. Junior Forward A'nikeyawna "KeeKee" Barber, who scored 20 points, then sank two free throws to make the score 44-35. Thomas followed that by scoring another basket to make the score 46-35 as the third period ended.

Thomas scored again at the start of the fourth period and Barber made one of two free throws to extend the lead to 49-35, a lead Crystal River would not overcome.

The game began with neither team able to take control of the game. The first period ended with Thomas draining a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Eastside a 13-8 lead heading into the second period. Thomas, who scored in a variety of ways throughout the game, then scored off a layup with her left hand to extend the Eastside lead to 15-8 early in the second period. Crystal River then went on a 7-0 spurt to tie the game at 15, before Eastside responded with a 8-0 spurt to make the score 23-15. Eastside went into halftime leading 29-21, but let Crystal River back in the game with a 14-6 run that led to the game being tied at 35.

That's when Thomas took over the game and willed her team to victory by scoring every time she put the ball in the air. Thomas, who is known for letting her play speak for itself, simply said "Yes" when asked if she felt the need to carry her team to victory.

Eastside second-year coach Lance Radford said he has been waiting for Thomas to explode all season and he was glad she waited until the playoffs to do so.

"I think for her, she now realizes this is her year," Radford said. "She is the senior leader and I don't think she is ready for this season to be done with."

Radford said after Thomas got hot in the second half, he gave her one simple command: "Keep going, just keep going."

Cleveland Tinker

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