Cape Coral seemed poised to turn its first-round game in the Queen of the Palms Classic into a rout Wednesday night at Ida Baker.
Despite dominating for nearly three quarters, the Seahawks saw the Tarpon Springs Spongers erase most of their 18-point lead to almost nothing before regaining control with the help of freshman sensation McKenna Beach scoring the last nine points in a 58-47 victory in the Amber Division.
Cape Coral (11-2) plays Orlando Boone at 7 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals.
It almost looked like Tarpon Springs (10-6), which played from behind the entire game, would steal a win as the Seahawks missed countless opportunities to blow the game wide open at the free throw line, going just 12-of-34 at the line to allow the Spongers to hang tight.
Trailing 46-28 midway through the third quarter, Tarpon Springs went on a 19-3 run, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers by senior Eleni Karavokiros and sophomore Zoe Lekakis to cut the lead to 49-47 with less than three minutes remaining.
Beach, who led the Seahawks with 22 points, took over, first hitting a free throw, then getting a key layup to extend the lead to 52-47. Camary Williams delivered the dagger moments later with a steal and a basket with 1:35 left for a seven-point lead and a crisis averted.
"I want the ball in her hand at the end of the game," said? Seahawks coach Kirk Myers. "She's mentally ready, has toughness and is smart."?
Early on, it was like Cape was playing with seven players on the court as Tarpon Springs couldn't handle the full-court pressure, falling behind 11-0 early.
The Spongers twice closed the gap to three points, but never seemed to have an answer for Beach, who was a consistent force and helped the Seahawks claim a 29-19 halftime lead.
Cape pushed the lead to as much as 18 in the third quarter on field goals by Beach and Crystal Townsend, but Lekakis (25 points) led the Spongers' comeback.
"We have a habit of looking at our work instead of finishing them off,"? said Myers. "I was happy with our intensity early in the game, but we can't have lapses like that."
Williams added 14 points and Kassie Griffin added 11 for the Seahawks.
For Tarpon Springs, which started four sophomores, it was a case of being too young and inexperienced.
"We have young players and they go to the bench with foul trouble, that's what happens," said? Spongers coach Stephanie Walden. "We run the press every day in practice and watched them beat themselves."?
Tarpons Springs 11 8 14 14 - 47
Cape Coral 18 11 17 12 - 58
TARPON SPRINGS 47 - Lokakis 25, Morris 8, Karavokiros 7, Romagnuolo 4, Wilson 2, Scalisi 1. Totals: 18 8-10 47. 3PG: 3.
CAPE CORAL 58 - Beach 22, Williams 14, Griffin 11, Townsend 5, Brice 4, Hunter 2. Totals: 21 12-34 58. 3PG: 4.