By Dave Brousseau
LAKELAND – The Palm Beach Lakes girls’ basketball team has seen this scenario play out several times this season.
The Rams entered the Class 7A state semifinals with a 1-5 record against teams in the state tournament, including Friday’s opponent Tampa Plant.
The result was more of the same as Palm Beach Lakes dropped another game to top state team 73-64 at the RP Funding Center.
Plant (30-1) will make its first appearances in a final when they face Miami High on Saturday at 8 p.m.
“The kids fought hard,” said Palm Beach Lakes coach Cassandra Rahming. “I’m proud of the team because they played hard to the very end. We just came up short.”
It was the Rams second loss of the season to Plant, the first was 73-57 at the Ledawn Gibson Invitational in Winter Haven on Jan. 11.
Lakes trailed 56-44 after three quarters, but despite a solid effort, could never cut the deficit to single digits until it was too late.
Overall, the Rams won the second half by outscoring Plant 40-32, but the damage had already been done in the first half.
“We lost focus and didn’t get those 50-50 balls and we got killed on the boards,” said Rahming. “We cut into their lead, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Keishmy Ayuso led the Rams with 29 points, while Zaida Gonzalez had 14 points.
Lakes (21-9) was making its first trip to the Final Four since winning the Class 7A state title in 2015.
The clear and present danger on Friday was Plant was just too good from the onset. The Panthers jumped to a 7-0 start and were never threatened.
Plant outscored the Rams 26-14 in the second quarter for a 41-24 lead at the half.
Kyala Sieper and Nyla Jean combined for 27 points for the Panthers, who shot 51-percent from the field, by the break. Together they finished with 23 and 22 points respectively.
PLANT 73, PALM BEACH LAKES 64
PBL (21-9): Anderson 2-6-10, Ayuso 10-6-29, Gonzalez 4-4-14, Jones 3-2-8, Ivy 1-0-3.
P (30-1): Cheesman 4-4-13, Sieper 11-1-23, Culpepper 4-2-11, Jean 10-1-22, White 1-2-4.
3-pointers: Cheesman, Culpepper, Jean. Half: P 41-24.