Although her team was the heavy underdog, Perry Hall coach Linda Caccavalla took an optimistic approach before yesterday's Class 4A North Region semifinal against No. 3 Lake Clifton.
"I'd rather play them and not their reputation," Caccavalla said on Tuesday. "I don't know how they play, but I do know that any team can beat any other team on any given day."
Despite a strong first-half effort from the Gators, yesterday was not that day.
Janika Conley scored 23 points and Lashina Gross and DeShawn Coleman added 20 and 17 points, respectively, to lead host Lake Clifton to a 74-42 victory.
The second-seeded Lakers (17-2) will play at top-ranked Western in the region final tomorrow.
After leading by just three points at halftime, the Lakers got their transition game going in the second half.
Lake Clifton outscored fourth-seeded Perry Hall, 31-10, in the fourth quarter on 11-for-12 shooting from the field.
Coleman (11 points) and Conley (10 points) combined to score 21 in the period.
"In the fourth quarter we decided to go one-on-one a lot," Lake Clifton coach James Monroe said. "Lashina, DeShawn and Janika are great one-on-one players. We saw in the first half that their guards couldn't play us straight up."
The Lakers also raised their defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, forcing 10 turnovers.
"We gave them a lot of different looks defensively in the second half," Monroe said. "We threw a full-court press in and mixed it up with a couple of zones."
For the first three quarters, however, Perry Hall (15-7) was in the ,, game.
The Gators, led by senior Shannon Burke (16 points), trailed 11-9 after one quarter and went on to take the lead briefly in the second.
Perry Hall took its last lead at 18-16 on a basket inside by Alyssa Phoebus (seven points) 3:13 before halftime.
Phoebus opened the second half with another basket in the paint that pulled the Gators to 26-25.
Lake Clifton then went on a 16-3 run to take a 42-28 lead. Perry Hall reduced its deficit to 43-32 by the end of the quarter, but that's as close as it would get.
Caccavalla was pleased with her team's effort, especially because basically the same players comprised last season's 5-14 team.
"The difference is that my players have not gone to camps or AAU ball, I just have raw talent," Caccavalla said. "The girls played outstanding."