The Oakleaf girls basketball team’s second trip to the state semifinals ended in difficult fashion.
Oakleaf battled until the finish, but never caught back up to Charlotte in a 54-47 loss in the Class 7A state semifinals on Thursday night at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. The Knights, who went to the state final four for the first time in 2021, fell behind early and couldn’t get closer than five points in the second half. Oakleaf finished its season at 26-4.
Among the area’s four state semifinal qualifiers (Oakleaf, Providence and St. Johns Country Day), only Bishop Kenny managed to reach the title game. The Crusaders will face Lake Highland Prep on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the Class 4A championship game.
Oakleaf’s Fantasia James had a steal and an easy layup to cap a 6-0 Knights’ run and get them to within 20-18 in the second quarter. But the Tarpons countered with a 7-0 run to go into the break.
That lead would grow as high as 14 in the second half, but the Knights chipped away. They got within seven after a James layup with 1 minute, 28 seconds to play but that proved the final burst for Oakleaf. James led the Knights with 20 points.