PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Middleburg High’s girls basketball team entered the highly-charged gym at Nease High School knowing that the Nease High team (25-1) was top-ranked in Class 7A and fourth …
PONTE VEDRA BEACH – Middleburg High’s girls basketball team entered the highly-charged gym at Nease High School knowing that the Nease High team (25-1) was top-ranked in Class 7A and fourth ranked statewide with a 25-1 record and three previous wins over the Lady Broncos to the tune of 77-37 in December, 52-47 in January and 55-19 January 26 in the St. Johns River Athletic Conference championship game.
In the first quarter of their district 3-7A championship game played February 7, Middleburg (20-6) opened with a slightly different look with center Skylar Baltezegar standing above the three-point arch directing traffic with the rest of the Bronco offense slicing into the lane trying to counter the prowess of Nease High center Constance Hobby on defense.
The plan worked for the first quarter as Middleburg gained a 7-5 edge with guard Mar ria Davis hitting the first layup and then hitting a three pointer to stir the Panther crowd.
Nease got a three to open the second quarter to capture the lead, but Middleburg kept at their game with ties at 11-11 and 14-14 with Mallory Roney hitting a three and Baltezegar nailing a layup against Hobby off an offensive rebound.
With three minutes to halftime, though, Nease revved their engines with a three pointer and a three-point layup and foul from guard Kiya Turner, who led all scorers with 25 points on the night, to spring to a 20-16 lead with a three at the buzzer sealing a 23-16 halftime lead.
In the second half, Middleburg jeopardized their own destiny with a handful of balhandling errors on top of a bucket that seemed sealed to Bronco shots as Nease raced away with the game rapidly to earn the championship trophy.
Middleburg advances into the region tournament with a travel game at Ocala Vanguard (18-8) while Nease stays home to host Columbia High (20-7) out of Lake City. Nease was a region finalist in 2018 losing to Class 7A runnerup Choctawhatchee 47-42.