AVON PARK – Maybe looking ahead to facing Mulberry in the Class 5A-District 8 championship game, the Avon Park Red Devils nearly forgot they still had to get past the Lake Placid Green Dragons.
Avon Park never lost the lead in the second half though Lake Placid came close to pulling an upset as the Red Devils were able to pull out a 48-45 win over the Green Dragons on Tuesday night to advance to the championship game.
“If we made our layups early, we would have been ten ahead,” said Lake Placid Head Coach Steve Bullard. “We had a couple of miscues trying to throw through or above people, but I am so proud of this bunch of girls. I got all I could get out of them and they gave me all they had, I thought they played a good game, it could had gone either way.”
Despite those missed layups and miscues, the Green Dragons, behind the effort of Claire Phypers, who scored 18 of her 22 points in the first half, only trailed the Red Devils 31-29 going into the intermission.
Avon Park seemed to put the game to rest early in the second half, after a basket by Jamya Houston and a 3-pointer by Tajenay Vassel gave the Red Devil’s a five-point cushion at 36-31.
The Red Devils continued to pad their lead, building it to eight, 42-34 late in the third quarter.
Lake Placid finished the third quarter with baskets by Kylie Elliott and Phypers to cut Avon Park’s lead in half to four, 42-38.
Avon Park slowed the pace in the fourth quarter, which may have worked against them early as the Green Dragons got to within one twice, 44-43 with 6:25 remaining, and 46-45 with 2:31 remaining.
Each time Vassel came through with a clutch shot to increase the Red Devils lead back to three, the last time to make the score 48-45 with 34 seconds left in the game.
“Vassel killed us,” said Bullard. “When they had to have a basket, she got them one, she is the real deal.”
Lake Placid still had two opportunities, the first came after blocking a shot under the basket, but was called for traveling a few seconds later that nullified a 3-point shot attempt.
They got the ball back with 3.2 seconds left after forcing an Avon Park turnover. A great throw and catch on the inbound pass was made down the right side, but Lake Placid again was called for traveling on the shot.
Avon Park ran out the clock to preserve the 48-45 win.
“You play a team twice, beat them twice, that third game can be difficult,” said Avon Park Head Coach Paulette Daley. “They came out with a good game plan, we made the adjustments and held on for the win.”
Phypers led the Green Dragons with a game-high 22 points. Elliott and Kayla Domenich each scored 7.
Vassel led the Red Devils with 20 points with Asiah Dewberry and Keannia Williams each scoring 9.
Avon Park advances to play the Mulberry Panthers in Mulberry on Friday night in the Class 5A-District 8 championship game.