Palm Beach Central falls in girls basketball state semifinal
Friday, February 24, 2012
by Matt Porter
Palm Beach Central's dream season came to a last-minute end at The Lakeland Center Friday night.
After leading much of the second half, the Broncos (21-6), who had never advanced past the district tournament in their eight-year history, fell 65-64 to Miami-Dr. Krop.
Central held a double-digit lead for much of the fourth quarter, but Krop, which will face Orlando-Dr. Phillips in the Class 8A state championship tonight, climbed back.
The Lightning went on a 21-10 run in the fourth quarter to overtake the Broncos. Krop trapped aggressively, forced turnovers and hit critical free throws.
Krop's Maika-La McCloud hit a three-pointer to pull the Lightning (28-4) with 64-62 and Ieshia Small's three-point play gave Krop its first lead of the fourth quarter with 38 seconds left.
Central called its final timeout with 32 seconds left. The Broncos set up a play, but Primm was called for a block with 24 seconds left.
Down one point, Central grabbed a rebound, but had no timeouts and the clock ran out.
"It was, 'Oh no,' " said Small, who led all scorers with 22 points. "And then it was, 'Oh yes.' "
Seniors Mariah-Cauhryn Smelser and Lexus Love had double-doubles in their final high school games. Smelser had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Love had 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Senior Ashante Doby scored a team-high 15 points. Crystal Primm added 13.
"They played hard,' Central coach Bruce Gaffney said of his team. "Those girls played with their hearts tonight."
After trailing 8-0 early, the Broncos went on a 9-4 run in the final two minutes of the first quarter and controlled much of the game.
Small, Krop's five-star recruit who averaged nearly a triple-double per game (23.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists), was kicked in the throat by a teammate late in the first quarter. With breathing trouble, the junior sat the final minute of the first quarter and watched as Central took a 30-27 lead into halftime.
Small returned to start the third quarter, but the Broncos kept rolling. Doby hit a layup, a jumper and a three-pointer to put Central up 37-31. Krop closed the gap to two points before junior Demetria Sherrod's three made it 42-37.
The Broncos stayed ahead with an aggressive trap and hard work on the boards. Love's offensive rebound and putback, then a jumper on the next possession, put Central up eight with less than a minute remaining in the third.
Doby's layup put Central up 10, Small missed a three at the buzzer and the Broncos fans danced to the music that reverberated throughout the arena.
Eight minutes later, it was Dr. Krop's fans who were dancing. And the dream was over.
"All I can say is we left everything on the court," Smelser said. "I'm proud of everybody. I'm proud of my school."