Blue Devils Put Away Red Devils In Semifinal, 71-46
Wed. February 13, 2013 at 2:00 a.m. | By Bill Kemp
By BILL KEMP
LEDGER MEDIA GROUP
WINTER HAVEN | When two teams meet for the fourth time in a season the chessboard is put away. Both coaches know the secrets are out and the game comes down to athletes making plays.
Winter Haven had a floor full of play-making athletes against Kathleen taking a 71-46 Class 6A regional semifinals win Tuesday at Winter Haven High School.
Most of the play making was done by the Blue Devils' smothering defense that never allowed Kathleen to move the ball anywhere on the floor unattended.
"We had to get back to Winter Haven basketball before it's too late," Winter Haven head coach Johnnie Lawson said. "Winter Haven basketball is pressure-pressure, but on the offensive end, slow it down and run some. I thought we did that tonight."
With the win the Blue Devils advanced to play Tampa Sickles in the regional finals at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"I just want to thank God. He has been so good to me," Lawson said. "My coaching staff put together a great game plan and we had to pressure the ball, something we haven't been doing.
"We talked a lot about helping each other and trusting your teammates and we helped all night. You're always kind of nervous when you're playing Kathleen."
Winter Haven took a solid 37-20 halftime lead, getting several second-chance baskets and 21 points from Zeneka Willix, who finished the game with 31.
"What an underrated kid," Lawson said. "She is the most underrated kid in the country. She plays the one, the two, three, four and five. She can do it all."
Kathleen battled back in the third quarter, but lost senior guard Mercedes Simons for several minutes after twisting her ankle, and the Blue Devils were able to outscore Kathleen 15-14 in the quarter. Simons eventually returned to the game.
"Mercedes' ankle is OK. She wanted to return same as Anaya Thomas, who turned her ankle and came back in," said Kathleen head coach Greg White, who also made a bold prediction after the finzl buzzer sounded.
"Coach Lawson did a tremendous job tweaking my antifreeze," White said. "So I tweaked it back and he tweaked it again and it was not nearly as effective as it was the first two times we played them. They're a great club and I wish them the best. I think they can win it all.
"I said it when we lost the district championship, they are an aggressive, aggressive team. They're very quick and we're not. It's just that simple. We couldn't counter it and the game got away from us."
Christin Strawbridge led Kathleen with 16 points and Kiara Abram added 10. Cynkeria Mobley scored 10 for Winter Haven.
KATHLEEN (46): Kiara Abram 10, Jasmine Holmes 2, Amanda Atkinson 2, Mercedes Simmons 1, Anaya Thomas 2, Destiny Small 9, Christin Strawbridge 14, Alena Cuza 6. Totals: 21, 6-23, 46.
WINTER HAVEN (71): Ta'Lena Freeney 5, Shantrice Solomon 3, Khadijah Howell 5, Shaterrika O'Neal 6, Cynkeria Mobley 21, Zeneka Willix 31. Totals: 26, 17-24, 71.
Kathleen 8 12 14 12 — 46
Winter Haven 18 19 15 19 — 71
Records: Winter Haven 21-8, Kathleen 17-9.