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Seahawks edge Pirates, 37-36

Cape team advances to girls District 7A-10 basketball finals

February 7, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

In a clash for the rights to a trip to the District 7A-10 girls' basketball finals tonight, the Cape Coral Seahawks (20-7) earned a 37-36 home victory over Port Charlotte (15-11) to punch their ticket to the big game.

After two quick three-point buckets by Cape sophomore Alexia Poposki, it seemed as if this contest was heading in the direction of the two previous bouts between the teams during the regular season, as Cape handily defeated Port Charlotte. That would not be the case on this night.

"We started with some energy, hitting a couple of threes and then I guess we kind of felt that we had the game, so everything went down and their energy rose," said Seahawks' Head Coach Brian Cruz. "The opposition played a hell of a game. They had a great scouting report, they knew exactly what to do against us - and my girls just had that fire, that passion to stay in the game and fight their way back a couple of times."

Cape started off the game on a 12-3 run, as they would pressure the Pirates' ball handler at midcourt, sometimes trapping or falling into a zone if the point guard would break the press.

"We've been switching our defenses, but we find that that's our go-to," said Cruz.

The Seahawks would use that zone defense for most of the night, and converge on Port Charlotte players in the corner or down on the block to force turnovers or bad shot attempts.

Port Charlotte's junior guard Ameijah Jones put the team on her back as the first half came to a close, as eight of her 11 points came during the first 16 minutes of play.

The Pirates and Jones would only find themselves trailing 21-20 at the break.

"You know, you play a team twice, and you beat them by 19 or more, I think anybody is going to look past them. But hey, in that locker room I told them, 'Don't look past this team, they're doing special things,'" added Cruz.

It seemed as if the message clicked in the locker room for the coach, though not until the start of the fourth quarter.

In the third, Port Charlotte's coach decided to try and shake things up a bit offensively, trying to make the Cape players come play defense on his point guards.

What ensued were both teams at a standstill for an almost two-minute possession of the Pirates' point guard just inside the half-court line standing still to the dismay of the crowd at "The Nest."

"They started playing a compact zone, so if you're doing that, at some point I'm going to make you come out," said Port Charlotte Head Coach Mike Progl.

"The crowd saying, 'Oh play the game, play the game,' well, how about you come play defense? Because all you're doing is standing in the paint not moving, which there's nothing wrong with. It was a good scheme by the coach, but that doesn't mean I have to force the shot, so we waited."

The score was knotted at 27 apiece heading into the final stanza as the Pirates would bury back-to-back threes to even the score - that's when Cape seemed to wake up a bit.

The Seahawks went on an 8-2 run in the first four minutes of the fourth, though the Pirates would not quit so easily.

Pirate junior Elizabeth Joseph would hoist up a three-point attempt that found the bottom of the net to bring the game even again at 35 all with 1:38 to go.

Port Charlotte took the lead burying one-of-two free throws nearing the end of regulation.

Cape's Sierra Moore would change all of that, as the sophomore guard/forward put back a missed shot for a layup to give the Lady Seahawks a 37-36 lead with 34 seconds to go, the eventual final score.

Port Charlotte did have a chance to tie or take the lead at the free-throw line with 10 seconds left, but were unsuccessful in making either attempt.

Senior point guard Crystal Tisme was a force all night for Cape Coral, driving furiously to the rim, often letting go floaters that would kiss off the glass and in.

Cape senior Joilynn Lewis also chipped in 10 points of her own to help lead the team to a district finals match-up.

Poposki led all scorers (tied) with 11.

"Tisme, at halftime I told her, 'You're a senior, do you want this to be your last game? You need to turn it up,' and when we needed her to, that's when she did it. That's what she does. She's the leader out there."

This marks the end of the season for Port Charlotte, and Coach Progl was encouraged by his team's efforts on the night.

"I saw a lot of heart, a lot of determination. The first two times we played Cape Coral they put it on us pretty hard. We missed a lot of layups, we missed a lot of free throws, we should have beat them by 20-plus points."

Cape will go onto face a tough Charlotte team (18-6, 9-0 district) that defeated the Seahawks 47-35 and 28-26 during their two regular season meetings.

"We'll need to come out harder than what we did today," said Cruz. "I'll watch film on that last game and prepare to see what worked against them, see what didn't, and just adjust. The plan is to come out hard, and adjust when needed."

The district final game will be played at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda today at 7 p.m.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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