BY ANDREAS BUTLER
A stifling defense lifted Atlantic past Ocala Trinity Catholic 48-23 to win the 2-4A Regional final.
“I knew we could pressure them and they haven’t seen press like ours other than when they played Jacksonville Ribault. We wanted to take out there shooters and we did,” said George Butts, Atlantic’s coach.
The win propelled the Sharks to the Class 4A state Final Four for the second time in the past three seasons.
“It’s awesome to get back. We waited for two years. We felt we were robbed last year. This time when we get there we must play better defensively to give ourselves a chance,” said Butts.
17 for Woodard
Dee Gillard and Shantanzia Howard led Atlantic’s defensive effort. They combined to hold Ocala Trinity’s star player Shambria Washington scoreless.
“We knew that we had to shut her down because she is a great player and we wanted to go to Lakeland,” responded Gillard.
Destiny Woodard had the hot hand for the Sharks with a game-high 17 points, knocking down five three pointers. She knocked down four for 12 points in the first quarter.
“I’ve been sick with the flu this week. I was able to get to my spots to shoot and pass the ball to open teammates,” Woodard said.
Ronni Williams also had 15 points, 18 rebounds and nine blocks for Atlantic.
“It’s great to get back to the Final Four. We had a great overall defensive effort tonight. We have been in this position before now we have to go and do what it takes to get the job done,” stated Williams.
Showdown in Lakeland
Atlantic led 18-6 after a three by Woodard with 1:04 to play in the opening quarter.
The Sharks found themselves up 30-13 at halftime after holding the Celtics to 4-for-21 shooting.
Amber Ferguson scored 12 points and Shannon Tanelli had nine for the
Atlantic played Coral Springs Charter in the Class 4A semifinals on Feb. 19, after the Daytona Times’ deadline. The winner played for the 4A State title on Feb. 21.
The Final Four takes place at the Lakeland Civic Center in Lakeland.
Williams named McDonalds All-American
Williams was named a McDonald’s All-American on Feb. 14, becoming the first girl basketball player in either Volusia or Flagler county to earn the honor.
She will play in the McDonalds All-American game at the United Center in Chicago on April 3.
Girls playoffs recap
Ashley Folsom had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks to lead Father Lopez past Jacksonville University Christian 69-56 for the Region 1-3A title. Teammates Simone Brown (17 points, 8 rebounds), April Panaggio (14 points) and Shannon Crenshaw (10 points, nine assists) also chipped in.
The Green Wave advanced to the Class 3A State Final Four. They played Clearwater Calvary Christian in the semifinal on Feb. 20. The winner advanced to the 3A title game on Feb. 21.
Lopez defeated defending Class 3A champ Gainesville P.K. Younger 62-60 in the second round behind Crenshaw’s 19 points and Folsom’s 18.
Lake Mary beat Deland 39-31 in the regional semifinals. DeLand was without starting guard Erin Graham. Emily Bernard had nine points for the Bulldogs.
Boys playoff recap
New Smyrna beat Oviedo 65-61 to open the Class 7A playoffs. Desmond Mitchell had 17 points to lead the Barracudas.
Monolito Hamilton scored 29 points and Jason Brunel added 15 points with 10 rebounds to help DeLand defeat Jacksonville Mandarin in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs. Kyle Epping and Larry Cavers each added nine points for DeLand.
Malik Maitland had 25 points and A.J. Ford 24 to lead Father Lopez to a comfortable 85-54 win over Gainesville PK Yonge to open the Class 3A playoffs.
Cameron Breehl added 16 points and Sam San Souci 12 for the Green Wave.
A fourth-quarter collapse caused Calvary Christian Academy to lose 56-49 to Leesburg First Academy in the Class 2A playoffs. The Lions led by nine points heading into the fourth quarter. Zach Camporese had 18 points for Calvary.
Deltona fell to Palm Bay Heritage 92-69 in the Class 6A first round.
Regional semifinal games took place Feb. 19. New Smyrna hosted Orlando Evans, Father Lopez hosted Gainesville St. Francis and DeLand hosted Oviedo Hagarty.
Prep Sports Seven Basketball rankings
Girls: 1. *Father Lopez (25-5), 2. *Atlantic (22-6), 3. *DeLand (26-4), 4. Flagler Palm Coast (18-7), 5. *Trinity (20-8), 6. *Seabreeze (13-13), tie 7.*New Smyrna (8-17), Warner (8-9).
Boys: 1. *Father Lopez (26-2), 2. *DeLand (22-7), 3. *New Smyrna (22-4), 4. *Calvary (18-9), 5. *Deltona (12-15), 6. Mainland (15-11), 7. Halifax (12-11).
1.Spruce Creek (3-1), 2. Trinity (1-2), 3. New Smyrna (1-0), 4. Seabreeze (1-1), 5. DeLand (0-1), 6. University (3-0), 7.Mainland (3-0).