It was a heartbreaking loss Friday at host Seven Rivers Christian, when the Lady Sharks led until the last seconds before losing 37-36. Head Coach Chris Cowart and his team feared the loss would be enough to knock them down from the fifth seed in the district tournament, denying them the opportunity to take on a beatable Seven Rivers team and perhaps advance to the semifinal.
While their seeding fears were realized -- the loss did allow First Academy to scoot by to the fifth seed -- the luck of the draw will allow Cedar Key to start off the tournament against Seven Rivers, offering them a chance at sweet revenge.
"We played really tough on Friday," Cowart said.
"We were playing really well in the first half, but I had two girls get into foul trouble. Early in the second half, I had to decide what to do with Deanna Littlefield and Lindsay Edmunds (the two in foul trouble), so I sat Lindsay so she'd be available later in the game."
Littlefield fouled out, as Cowart knew she would.
"Deanna plays really tight defense -- that's what we need her to do -- so it was no surprise that we would lose her."
Edmunds fouled out not long after, on an apparently clean steal, leaving Cedar Key a man short in the fourth quarter and more than a minute left to play.
Although the Lady Sharks trailed by a point, they had played a very strong game and Cowart still felt confident. Kacey Miller was fouled and went to the line, making both shots.
"When Kacey went to the line and made those two free throws, putting us back in the lead, I really thought we were going to win," Cowart said.
Unfortunately, everything is harder with only four on the floor. The Sharks failed to keep possession on a rebound, then couldn't get a stop on defense, allowing Seven Rivers to score in the very last seconds.
"The girls were very upset about it," Cowart said. "But sometimes that's the way things go."
Cedar Key still has some opportunities left to show off their hard work. Thursday they travel to Bronson, where they hope to down the Lady Eagles in their nest, and Friday is Homecoming, when every team will play Dunnellon Christian Academy, starting with the middle school girls at 4 p.m.
Cedar Key girls start their district tournament on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. against Seven Rivers. Games will be played at St. John Lutherand of Ocala.