LAKE BUTLER The Olympia girls basketball team went into halftime Friday night down 10 to Vero Beach in the FHSAA Class 9A Regional Championship, after trailing by as many as 12 points in the second quarter.
Whatever was said in the locker room at halftime must have worked, though, as the Titans — who were down 31-21 at the break — outscored the Indians 34-13 the rest of the way to score the 55-44 win and earn the program's first trip to Lakeland for the FHSAA Final Four.
"(We) told the team 'we've been in worse situations ... this is where we step up,'" senior captain Taylor Hair said.
It was Hair and the team's other seniors who led the way for Olympia (17-9) in the deciding second half. Hair scored a team-high 20 points to go alongside Anjelie Tirone's 13 points and 12 points from co-captain Brianna Richardson.
"Honestly, that first half kind of scared me a little bit — they looked better than us," head coach Robert Carmody said. "(We) fought our way from 12 behind. ... It was unbelievable how much effort they gave in the second half."
That effort particularly manifested itself on defense and on the boards. Olympia's defense and the turnovers it created in the third quarter helped jumpstart the offense and the Titans' physicality on the boards — where Hair and Tirone combined for 25 rebounds, alone — proved to be part of the difference.
"I've got some beasts in there (in the paint) ... (and) I've got some guards that can rebound," Carmody said. "They fought for it."
Olympia had took the lead with around two minutes left in the third quarter, but Vero Beach (18-7) would fight back and tie the contest at 42-42 with five minutes to play. From there, though, the Titans outscored their guests 13-2 — and now they have a date with Boca Raton in the Class 9A State Semifinals at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Lakeland Center.
"This is the farthest I've ever been in my high-school career," Richardson said. "This means everything to us and we want it — we're ready."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].