Ocala, FL---The Lady Raiders play on, they are into the state semifinals down at the state tournament in Ocala.
That thanks to a hard fought, come from behind win over Hillsborough Thursday, 79-76. The win puts Northwest Florida State up against St. Petersburg Friday in the semifinals.
This the first meeting between the two programs in two years, both teams had their chances, but it was the Panhandle Conference runner-up who walked away with the win.
The Hawks (19-12) gave the nation’s seventh-ranked team a scare, but the Raiders (23-5) made enough plays to survive.
Hillsborough taking a 5 point lead into the break after a back and forth first 20 minutes, 42-37 the Hawks were up.
In the second half, Northwest able to rally down from at a ten point deficit at one point, using a 12-0 run to take the lead.
The Lady Raiders would eventually build a seven point lead with 2:15 left, but the Hawks used a 3-pointer by Rachel Reid to get to within three at the 52.9 second mark.
From there, a collision resulted in a loose ball foul on the Hawks and a technical foul on NWFS.
Simiah Blount (28 points, 10-of-16 shooting, 5-of-9 from 3-point range) stepped in and made a pair of free throws on the technical for HCC, while Simone Westbrook (all 14 points in the second half, five assists) made one for the Raiders, who went up 77-75 with 20.3 seconds remaining.
The Hawks went for the tie, but Khadejra Young (17 points, nine rebounds) was unable to score on a layup.
NWFS pushed the ball up the floor and was called for a charge with 15.2 seconds left.
From there, HCC got the ball to Reid, who had the ball knocked loose from her, but after a collision with a Raider player went to the foul line with 6.8 seconds remaining.
Reid made the first free throw, but was long on the second.
The sophomore guard ran down her miss and got off a fallaway 3-pointer from the right corner, which fell short with 1.1 seconds left.
Carla Batchelor (26 points, 12 rebounds) hit a pair of foul shots for NWFS to push its margin to three.
HCC had one last shot, as Reid got a look from halfcourt, but her shot hit the shot clock as time expired.
Northwest’s Janae Blount (13 points) and HCC’s Kayla Roberts (10 points) also finished in double figures.
The Hawks held a 22-11 edge on the offensive glass, but were outscored 18-17 in second chance by the Raiders, who rallied from down 10 points in the second half.
NWFS also scored 28 points off 22 turnovers by HCC and surived a 4-for-21 effort from 3-point range.
Simiah Blount helped the Hawks’ effort from long distance, as they finished 10-of-32 from long range, but in the end they were unable to win their first state tournament game since 1986.