Despite leading by double digits in the second half, the Barron Collier girls basketball team found itself in the middle of dogfight Tuesday in the Class 6A regional semifinals.
The veteran Cougars, playing in the second round of the state tournament for the fourth straight year, never got rattled. Instead, Barron Collier knocked down big shots in the fourth quarter to beat Fort Myers 60-51 at home.
The Cougars (16-13) play Saturday at Miami-Norland for the regional championship and a spot in the 6A semifinals in Lakeland.
Barron Collier led 43-30 with 70 seconds left in the third quarter. With the help of a 9-0 run, Fort Myers (22-8) clawed its way back into the game, and eventually tied it with four minutes left.
Junior Megan Langham put back an offensive rebound with 3:20 left to break the tie and give the Cougars the lead for good. Kacie Frost, also a junior, drilled a 3-pointer with 2:27 left to give Barron some breathing room on its way to victory.
"We knew we had to win after losing last year (in the semifinals)," Frost said. "We were pushing as hard as we could and trying to hits as many shots as we could."
The Cougars are in the regional finals for the sixth time in the past eight seasons. Last year Fort Myers knocked off Barron Collier on the Green Wave's floor in the second round.
"Revenge feels pretty sweet right now," Frost said with an ear-to-ear grin.
Barron looked to pull away several times, but the Green Wave did all it could to keep the game close. The Cougars led by nine at the end of the first quarter and were up 12 in the second before Fort Myers got within five points.
Langham, who had a game-high 18 points, said a 15-point win over Fort Myers in the regular season might have had the Cougars a bit overconfident.
"We came out and just thought we were going to beat them again," said Langham, who had 10 points in the first half. "We shouldn't have let up like that. We can't underestimate anyone."
After Fort Myers hit a free throw to pull within 53-49 with 2:18 left, Barron Collier played keep-away with the ball. The Cougars ran more than a minute off the clock before Langham found Brittney Lozada under the goal for an easy basket that put Barron up 55-49 with 1:14 left.
"We kept our composure when it mattered most," said Mike Hamburg, who has won three regional and two state titles in 13 years with the Cougars. "We made a lot of mistakes to let them back in the game, but give Fort Myers credit. They fought back."
Outsized by Fort Myers' two 6-footers and another 5-11 player, Barron Collier kept the ball on the perimeter. The Cougars shot 7-of-20 on 3-pointers, including three apiece from Frost and Langham.
Frost had 15 points as nine Cougars scored. Lozada added eight, all in the second half.
Jordan Lentz and Rebecca Troast each scored 11 points to lead Fort Myers. Lauren Gillingham added 10 points and nine rebounds.
* * *
BARRON COLLIER 60, FORT MYERS 51
FORT MYERS (51)
Layport 2 2-2 7, Simmons 3 0-2 6, Flynn 0 0-0 0, Troast 4 2-4 11, Gemme 3 0-1 6, Gillingham 2 6-6 10, Alexander 0 0-0 0, Lentz 4 3-3 11. Totals: 18 13-18 51
BARRON COLLIER (60)
Pagkanlungan 2 0-0 4, Jakia Davis 3 0-0 6, Denti 1 0-0 2, Gorton 0 1-2 1, Frost 6 0-2 15, Ferruci 1 1-2 3, Summers 1 0-0 3, Langham 5 5-6 18, Lozada 3 2-2 8. Totals: 22 9-14 60
FM 8 12 17 24 — 51
BC 17 13 13 17 — 60
Three-pointers: BC — Frost 3, Langham 3, Summers; FM — Layport, Troast. Fouls: BC 18, FM 14. Fouled out: None.