It was a rocky start for the Mustangs who opened with back-to-back turnovers, two misses, and two more turnovers. The Wekiva defense kept things from getting out of hand, though, forcing a few Hawk errors of their own and limiting the damage to just 4-0 approaching the four-minute mark of the first period. Freshman Brierra Williams finally broke the ice for the Mustangs with a three (her first of three such bombs) and started an exchange of long-distance baskets that quickly punched the score up to a 16-16 tie. The Hawks drained two free throws just before the buzzer, though, to win the first period 18-16.
Having found their rhythm, the second quarter proved much more productive for the Mustangs, who held the Hawks to just eight points in the period. After trading baskets to get to 22-20 approaching the midpoint of the quarter, Williams hit her second three followed by senior guard Tehya Perry sinking one of her own on a pass from junior guard E'toni Holloway. Holloway picked up a basket on the baseline fed by Perry on the next possession, and another fed by freshman guard Emmy James on the one after that. After the Mustangs traded a few fouls and turnovers with Spruce Creek, sophomore forward Alexis Choice got the last word of the period to go up 32-26 headed into the locker rooms
Having nothing to lose, the Hawks were not ready to go home yet, as Delayna Gillard hit a three early in the period to cut the Mustang to five. But their frustration turned into fouls that Choice were able to convert into four free throws in a row, keeping the game tight. After leading by as much as nine points, the Mustangs started to feel the Hawks chipping away thanks to threes from Yoke Tassent and Jayla Adams. By the end of the quarter, the Hawks had cut Wekiva's lead to just 43-39.
A free throw to open the fourth quarter for the Hawks made it a one-possession game as Spruce Creek pulled within three, but it was as close as they would get. Williams drained her third long-distance basket of the night followed by a jumper from Holloway and a free throw from Graham to put Wekiva on a 6-0 run, and then the Hawks were finally forced to start fouling as the clock ticked under two minutes. Graham and James each went 2 of 2 at the line before Graham picked up a layup off of a turnover, giving Wekiva a 55-45 lead and nearly putting the game out of reach.
The Hawks were determined to go out fighting, though. Jayla Adams hit a field goal for the Hawks to cut the Mustang lead to eight. On the next possession, Tassent stole and fed to Keasia Edwards who, in spite of getting her shot blocked by James, got her own rebound and got the ball back to Adams for a three-point play. Down five with under a minute to go, the Hawks were not out, but some fast footwork by the Mustangs allowed them to run time off the clock while hitting their free throws when the Hawks got close enough to foul. Now leading by eight with under 15 seconds to go, Choice found Holloway alone under the basket and forced the Hawks to make a desperate but ill-advised foul that was called intentional, giving the Mustangs an extra possession and sealing the outcome 60-51.
The Mustangs were plagued by 18 turnovers on the night, a statistic that will have to improve for them to be able to compete with Miami Ferguson Friday in the state semifinal. But they were saved by their remarkable rebounding, pulling down 34 boards (15 offensive) to the Hawks' 22 while shooting 41 percent. Wekiva was led by Holloway with 19 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Graham and Choice also picked up 10 each, with Choice getting the double-double on 11 rebounds as well.
Wekiva will face likely its greatest challenge yet this season when they face the Ferguson Falcons from Miami, who routed Miami Senior 52-34 in their regional championship to improve to 21-7 on the season. The game will be at 4:00 pm on Friday, February 24 at The Lakeland Center. Parking is $10, and admission is $10 per day as well.