SEBRING - There's a reason why Jamiese Wiley's nickname is "In the paint." The Blue Streaks senior snagged a game-high 19 rebounds to guide Sebring past DeSoto, 50-37, in Tuesday night's girls basketball Class 5A-District 11 semifinal game at Blue Streaks Gym.
"We had a game plan to keep DeSoto's five off of the boards," said Sebring coach Mike Lee. "And we did a very good job with that."
Wiley was a terror in the paint, netting a game-high 21 points to complete the double-double performance.
With the win, Sebring improved to 17-6 overall and 4-2 in 5A-11. The loss dropped DeSoto to 4-12 and 1-5, and eliminated the Bulldogs from the postseason.
The Streaks will now travel to Englewood to play Lemon Bay on Friday at 7 p.m. The Manta Rays swept the regular season series, winning by margins of nine and 16 points, respectively.
"We played them pretty well in both games," Lee said. "And on Friday, we're just going to show up and play hard."
At the outset of Tuesday's game, the Streaks had trouble getting things going on offense. Despite controlling the glass, the Streaks were missing easy shots at the basket and were handing the Bulldogs easy fastbreaks with a litany of turnovers. At the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs held a surprising 12-11 lead.
But Lee said he isn't concerned with the slow start.
"I think we were a little bit uptight at the beginning," he said. "I think our defense was good, but we seemed to struggle to find our stride offensively. But we got some really good help on the sidelines from all the coaches."
"There are a couple of girls that we'd like to see hit an outside shot early. But our game is to go out there and just get after it."
Sebring got back on track in the second period.
A stifling Streaks defense flustered DeSoto's shooters, and the Bulldogs were forced into a bevy of air-balls. Olivia Burnett and Christacia Dawkins swarmed ball-handlers, while Wiley and Jazmin House vacuumed up the missed shots. House was the team's second leading scorer and rebounder, also compiling a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Dawkins added four points and seven rebounds, also dishing out five assists, while Burnett added three points, three rebounds, and three assists.
The spectacular defensive effort helped Sebring hold DeSoto to a paltry four points in the second quarter, and the Streaks went into the halftime break with a comfortable 22-16 lead.
But Sebring struggled to put DeSoto away at the beginning of the second half. The Bulldogs opened the third period on a 9-2 run, cutting the Streaks lead down to 26-25 in only three minutes of play.
"There was a little stretch there where we weren't even rebounding," Lee said. "I called a time out and gathered the goals to talk them about our intensity. And from that point on, we kind of blew the game open."
Following the pep-talk, Sebring added a flurry of baskets, punctuated by Wiley's score plus the foul. Suddenly the Streaks' lead was up to five. Then it ballooned to nine before DeSoto banked in a 3-pointer to cut it to 36-27 at the end of the third quarter.
Sebring tacked on 14 more points in the final period to run away with the game. Wiley was unstoppable when she got position deep in the paint, easily putting back her teammates' missed shots for easy layups.
DeSoto's Ludasia Dennis paced the Bulldogs in scoring with 12 points. Tishonna Riley added eight while three other girls combined for six points.
With just over two minutes to play, Sebring had a commanding 46-29 lead. With the game in hand, Lee pulled his starters, giving his reserves ample playing time in a big district contest.
"We probably played like eight or so tonight," Lee said. "And when we got a nice lead, we got everybody in. It's always nice when you can let everyone play a little bit."