SARASOTA — The area’s top two girls basketball teams squared off during the final week of the regular season and played a playoff-type contest.
In a matchup of the two area teams that reached the FHSAA Final 4 a year ago, Charlotte High used pressure defense and clutch free-throw shooting to hold off Cardinal Mooney Catholic, 69-64, Tuesday night at Patterson Pavilion.
Charlotte, which reached the state semifinals last year for the first time in program history, received 24 points from junior guard D’yanis Jimenez, 19 from senior guard Aryana Hicks and 12 from senior guard Kristen Lowers.
Cardinal Mooney, which advanced to the state final for the initial time in its history, was led by freshman Kali Barrett’s 25 points, Jordyn Byrd’s 18 points and Olivia Davis’ 12 points.
The road does not get any easier for the teams. Charlotte returns to action Thursday at 16-3 Montverde Academy. Cardinal Mooney concludes the regular season Friday at home against 17-7 Tampa Carrollwood Day.
• The Tarpons turned up the pressure on the Cougars, who had taken a 10-point lead early in the second quarter. Charlotte went on a 12-0 run just before the end of the first half to take its first lead of the game at 30-29. “The first quarter we didn’t play good defense,” Tarpons coach Matthew Stephenson said. “It’s been a challenge for me to get them to do that lately. When we do, we are a much better basketball team. Defense wins games. The defense and the shots we made got us back in the game.”
• Ranked 17th in the state and second in Class 5A behind Plantation American Heritage by MaxPreps and 12th in the FHSAA RPI power rankings, the Tarpons made eight 3-pointers in the game, three by Jimenez and two each from Lowers and Hicks. “They’re big,” Stephenson said. “We shot them in rhythm. Sometimes we get a little trigger happy. Might be how I coach them to promote them on getting a lot of shots up. When we’re patient offensively and we get our feet underneath us, we’re a really good shooting team. We’ve been focusing on taking the open shots and having the confidence to shoot the open shots.”
• Charlotte will play the winner of the Fort Myers Dunbar-Cape Coral Ida Baker game in the semifinals of the Class 5A-District 11 tournament. After Montverde Academy, the Tarpons play host to 15-7 Miami Country Day to close the regular season. Charlotte split with Cardinal Mooney this season, losing 56-49 at the Tampa Bay Christmas Tournament. “We’ve got to be battle-tested for what we are focused on down the road,” Stephenson said. “Mooney is a good team, a top-ranked team that got us earlier in the season. It was a good test for both teams. Worked out really well.”
Cardinal Mooney takeaways
• The Cougars bolted out to leads of 10-2 and 22-12 but had trouble containing Charlotte the rest of the way. Cardinal Mooney’s goal is to allow 12 points per quarter, but it gave up 23, 19 and 20 during the final three quarters. “Give them credit for pushing the tempo up and making us uncomfortable,” Cougars coach Rico Antonio said. “They did that tonight.”
• Ranked seventh in the state and first in Class 3A by MaxPreps and sixth in the FHSAA RPI power rankings, Cardinal Mooney lost its first home game of the season. “We had some costly turnovers, some bad turnovers,” said Antonio, whose team fell to 5-1 at Patterson Pavilion. “We usually shoot well here, but our shots weren’t falling.”
• With the sixth-best strength-of-schedule (15.90) in the state, Cardinal Mooney has one more tester in the regular season before heading to the final in the three-team Class 3A-District 7 tournament against the Out-of-Door Academy-Saint Stephen’s winner. Charlotte had the fourth-best strength-of-schedule in the state at 16.13.
Braden River 74, Sarasota 52
AT: Braden River
TOP PLAYERS S, Ava Sims (13 points, 5 rebounds), Keensley Lisk (11 points, 2 rebounds), Ghita DiNota (6 points, 2 rebounds), Alyssia Bane (7 points, 4 rebounds), Madi Macdonald (9 points, 2 rebounds); BR, Monique Schwabach (10 points), Bella Patterson (20 points), Aaliyah Capers (25 points), Jasmine Hernandez (8 points)
RECORDS: Sarasota (6-15), Braden River (10-9)
NEXT: Manatee at Sarasota, 6 p.m. Wednesday
Riverview 70, Southeast 31
TOP PLAYERS: R, Jaylah Wilson (11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals), Amyia Lloyd (12 points, 4 assists, 5 steals), Sami Sluarek (14 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals), Krystal Montas (14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 2 assists), Sheli Hazan (8 points, 3 rebounds), Caroline King (4 points 7 assists, 5 steals)
RECORD: Riverview (21-0)
NEXT: Riverview at Fort Myers, 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Sarasota Christian 79, Gulf Coast HEAT 72
TOP PLAYERS: SC, Drew Yoder (27 points), Adam Bassil (18 points), Brian Hershberger (16 points), Ben Papineau (12 points), Tyler Klinger (6 points)
OF NOTE: Sarasota Christian never trailed in the game. … The Blazers have won 10 straight games.
NEXT: Sarasota Christian at Imagine School at North Port, 7 p.m. Thursday
Lakewood Ranch 78, Sarasota 64
TOP PLAYERS: S, Khalil Williams (11 points), Larsen Carr (11 points)
NEXT: Riverview at Sarasota, 8 p.m. Friday
Dennis Maffezzoli is the deputy sports editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and chief reporter for Sarasota Herald-Tribune and HTpreps covering Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Support local journalism by subscribing.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: PREP ROUNDUP: Charlotte High girls hold off Cardinal Mooney Catholic