BROOKSVILLE - Hernando opened up its own tournament Thursday afternoon, but never exactly got running on all cylinders.
The Lady Leopards fell to Plant City to kick off the fourth annual Hernando Holiday Classic, in a rugged, low-scoring affair that came down to a missed shot at the final horn, 35-32.
"Extremely frustrating," Hernando head coach Kevin Bittinger said. "We didn't come out ready to play at all and it showed the whole game. We were a step behind, a step late. Thank goodness you have a holiday tournament, because you do this now instead of next week when you come off break and look like garbage against district opponents.
"We had a lot of rust to shake off. We seemed to get in a little bit better rhythm in the second half, but it still just seemed like we were a step behind in everything, late on making decisions, and it showed."
To say both teams stumbled out of the gate would be putting it kindly. The Lady Raiders (7-7) held a 4-2 lead after the first quarter, and things opened up only slightly more in the second.
Plant City carried a 13-10 advantage into halftime, with Shayna Lawrence and Lacey Hargrove combining for all its points.
Hernando (9-6) forward Arianna Tankersley, the team's leading scorer who was questionable with a sprained ankle, showed no ill effects doubling her point total with six in a back-and-forth third quarter.
Yet the Lady Leopards were never able to stay out in front. The Lady Raiders still were ahead after three, 22-21.
A Lawrence putback with 59 seconds left broke a 31-all tie. Tankersley hit the front end of a 1-and-1 to cut the deficit to one, and Hernando seemed to catch a break when Jaziana Mathis corralled an offensive rebound off Tankersley's second free throw.
The Lady Leopards would eventually turn the ball over on an offensive foul, and Kaylyn Wilkerson knocked down a pair of free throws with 14.7 seconds remaining.
Hernando had an inbounds play in front of its bench with 4.4 to go, but Tyshea McRae was forced to shoot a desperation 3-point attempt that was off the mark and time expired.
"The play was designed for Ty to set a screen, for Brianna (Brady) to step into a three," Bittinger said. "But we had trouble getting the ball inbounds all day. I don't know why.
"Then we caught a break with them knocking it out of bounds. We were going to give it to Ty and give it right back to Brianna, but we just couldn't get a good look. It is what it is. We don't deserve to win games when we play like that. "
Tankersley had 13 points and five rebounds, while Mathis chipped in eight points, 11 rebounds and two steals. McRae totaled nine boards and TaShara Owens eight rebounds and three steals.
Lawrence paced Plant City with 12 points plus eight rebounds, followed by Hargrove with 11 points and three steals. Sharice Morales added 10 rebounds and three steals, while Wilkerson had six steals.
On Friday the Lady Leopards will play again at 1 p.m., facing Fivay, who lost to West Palm Beach-King's Academy on Thursday, 38-30.
"If you win, you don't learn about the mistakes you make," Bittinger said. "When you lose, it's easier to learn from mistakes. We are notoriously bad in the first quarter. That has to improve and it didn't today.
"So we've got to make sure that when 1 o'clock comes tomorrow we're ready to play basketball."
Later on Thursday, Central fell to Citrus, 63-44, and Nature Coast defeated South Sumter, 60-32. The Lady Bears (5-8) will play South Sumter on Friday at 5 p.m. and the Lady Sharks (12-2) face Citrus at 7 p.m.
Plant City 35, Hernando 32
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
PC 4 9 9 13 - 35
HER 2 8 11 11 - 32
Plant City (35): Morales 0, Hargrove 5 0-0 11, Lawrence 5 0-0 12, Youngblood 3 0-3 6, Wilkerson 1 4-6 6, Michaels 0 0-2 0, Smith 0, Holmes 0. Totals 14 4-11 35.
Hernando (32): Mathis 4 0-0 8, McRae 1 0-0 2, Tankersley 6 1-2 13, Owens 2 0-2 4, Harvey 0, Hudson 1 1-2 3, Brady 0 2-2 2, Laing 0, Revell 0. Totals 14 4-8 32.
Three-point field goals: PC 3 (Lawrence 2, Hargrove); HER 0.
Total fouls: PC 13; HER 18.
Technical fouls: none.
Fouled out: Owens (HER).
Records: Plant City (7-7 overall, 1-0 in tournament), Hernando (9-6 overall, 0-1 in tournament).
Hernando Holiday Classic
Plant City 35, Hernando 32
West Palm Beach-King's Academy 38, Fivay 30
Citrus 63, Central 44
Nature Coast 60, South Sumter 32
Hernando vs. Fivay, 1 p.m.
King's Academy vs. Plant City, 3 p.m.
Central vs. South Sumter, 5 p.m.
Nature Coast vs. Citrus, 7 p.m.