Western coach Breezy Bishop did not want to use last season's stunning upset loss to Perry Hall in the region finals as motivation for last night's meeting with the host Gators.
But the Doves sure played like a team on a mission.
No. 13 Western began an 18-0 spurt late in the first quarter en route to a convincing 79-53 victory in a Class 4A North semifinal.
The Doves (23-3), winners of 20 straight, will play host to city rival Northwestern for the region championship at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
Western, which had won two straight Class 4A state championships before losing to Perry Hall 58-57 on a controversial last-second shot last season, is seeking its fourth appearance in the state semifinals in five years.
Marion Moore, one of two Western seniors, scored a game-high 26 points. Latia Few (20), Crystal Falline (14) and Delena DeShields (11) also scored in double figures for the Doves.
"I tried not to think about last year. I just wanted to stay focused for this game," Moore said. "But the team did feel that it had something to prove. We matured, we had more confidence, and we're playing as a team."
Said Bishop: We're one year older. Last year, [Perry Hall] was the smarter team and the better-coached team."
Western entered the game as the heavy favorites, but the scrappy Gators seemed poised for another upset early in the game.
Perry Hall (6-16) maintained a slim advantage for most of the first quarter, taking its last lead at 14-12 on two free throws by Alisha McClinton (22 points) with 1: 32 remaining.
The Doves, however, ended the period with six straight points before opening the second quarter on a 12-0 run.
Western's spurt was the result of its swarming full-court press. The Doves, who forced Perry Hall into committing 41 turnovers, had their transition game running to near perfection.
At one point during the run, Western scored on seven straight possessions and Perry Hall turned the ball over on seven out of eight possessions.
"It was the most pressure we've seen," Perry Hall coach Linda Caccavalla said. "They laid off and anticipated the second pass and filled the passing lane. It seemed like they always had fresh legs."
The Gators never threatened after that. Western, which let a 15-point lead slip away to Perry Hall last season, took a 42-29 lead into halftime and extended it to 61-43 after three quarters.
The loss ended the Gators' brief playoff run, which began after a disappointing regular season. After going 4-15 despite returning its top two scorers (McClinton and Alyssa Phoebus), Perry Hall routed Walbrook (63-42) and Lake Clifton (73-59) in the playoffs.
"These girls could have given up with a 4-15 record going into the first round, but they didn't," Caccavalla said. "The ability is there. We just didn't have the chemistry this season."
Pub Date: 3/07/97