Gulf Coast girl’s basketball sophomore Yasmeen Chang scored a game-high 37 points and junior Jordan Cloutier added 23 points, combining to knock down eight 3-pointers in the game as the Sharks beat Sarasota (FL) at home in the Class 8A regional quarterfinals Thursday night, 70-59.
Tied at nine points apiece in the early going of the first quarter, and again at 27-27 at the beginning of the third, Gulf Coast (25-2) never trailed Sarasota (22-4) from five minutes on. But behind by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, 54-39, the Sailors rallied back and came within six down (60-54) but couldn’t get any closer to the Sharks.
With four players 5-foot-9 or taller, led by 6-foot-3 forward-center Madison Pack – a Columbia University signee – Gulf Coast head coach Mark Woodruff knew it would be a tough matchup.
“They were 22-3 coming in, all three losses to [2015 8A runner-up] Lakewood Ranch, so we knew they were a quality team. It’s the playoffs, you’ve got to play four quarters. We knew they’d make a run and we weathered it. We weathered it well,” he said after the victory.
After leading 27-24 at halftime, Gulf Coast went on a 18-6 run right out of the break, Chang and Cloutier hitting five of their six third quarter 3-pointers during that pivotal stretch to force a Sarasota timeout with the Sailors facing a 48-33 deficit.
Together, Gulf Coast’s scoring leaders scored 38 of the Sharks’ 43 second half points.
“They’ve played travel league, they’ve played ball at the highest level,” Woodruff said of Chang and Cloutier.
“We have college coaches here tonight…they do that all summer long, so it doesn’t faze them. They just come out and play and those kids compete at such a high level, everybody else rises to that level.”
Visiting Sarasota was led in the second half by junior low-post player Imani Jones, who scored nine of the Sailors’ 13 points in the third quarter alone, finishing with 13 points in the final 16 minutes of the contest.
“25 [Ja’da Bennett] and 10 [Jones] were just horses. They got a lot of points just outmuscling us down below. I’m so proud of our kids and the heart they showed because they’re not the biggest team down low, but they competed really well tonight.”
With their playoff-opening win on Thursday night, Gulf Coast will face Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch (24-3) and McDonald’s All-American LaDazhia Williams in the regional semifinals next week, the very team that handed Sarasota all three of its losses this season.
The 6-foot-2 senior, who is officially signed on to play at the University of South Carolina next year in the SEC Conference, is averaging 19.2 points, nine rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
“The main thing is, we shoot the ball like we did in the second half, we can play with anybody. We got to hit our shots, limit her, but more so limit everybody else. She’s going to get points.”
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