BRADENTON — Needing a stand with 4.5 seconds remaining in the Region 5A-3 semifinals, the Dunbar girls basketball team called on its defense one last time to stifle Bradenton Southeast.
In truth, it was a little too close for comfort.
The Tigers, which pushed out to a 5-point lead to open the fourth quarter, gave the Seminoles chance after chance down the stretch to steal the game.
But Southeast never did, turning the ball over on its last possession to lose to Dunbar 53-52 at Buzz Narbut Memorial Gymnasium.
The Tigers, which moved up in classification this season after reaching the Class 4A final in 2015, move on to the region finals for the fifth straight year to face Sarasota Booker on Friday in Sarasota. The Tornadoes defeated Spoto 49-28 in the other semifinal.
Southeast, which won a state title in 2014 and reached the Class 5A state final a season ago, ended its season at 24-4.
“It was an ugly game but I thought the girls stepped up,” Dunbar coach Dwayne Donnell said. “(Dekeriya) Patterson did a great job down the stretch. (Ja’Miah) Bland did a good job.”
Patterson and Bland combined to score 43 of the team’s 53 points, helping erase 12 turnovers in the final quarter, including two in the final seconds.
Patterson’s 25 points led all scorers, however, a crucial turnover with 34 seconds left in the game gave Southeast possession back with a chance to win it. She was pressured in the half court by Shauntavia Green, who was in her face nearly the entire game.
“It was really stressful because we really only have one point guard,” she said. “It’s a lot of work put on me to dribble.”
But for the most part, Patterson was Dunbar’s best player — she also added five steals.
Bland finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds, while senior Respect Leaphart, a Southern Mississippi signee, added seven points and 11 rebounds.
Dunbar outrebounded the Seminoles 35-24 on the game, including a 19-9 mark in the second half.
“They’re No. 2 in the state for a reason,” Southeast coach John Harder said. “They have three of the best players we’ve faced all year.”
Southeast would see its only lead early in the second quarter, using a Faith Mays layup to finish off a 6-0 run and push its lead to five points, 18-13, with 3:46 remaining.
But the Tigers quickly countered, using a strong outlet from Bland to Patterson to end the run.
Dunbar scored 13 points to end the first half on a flourish, including a euro-step by Patterson with time expiring that gave the Tigers a 26-25 lead.
She started the third quarter with another 3-pointer.
“(Patterson) is my MVP of the game,” Harder said. “She hit that layup with six seconds left in the first half and scored the three right out of the shoots. That’s five, if we could have stopped, that would have been a different ball game.”
While Dunbar turned the ball over just once in the first quarter, they coughed up the ball seven times in the second quarter, including six straight times during Southeast’s run.
The Tigers had 18 turnovers in the second half, too, but forced Southeast into difficult shots at the basket. Green was Southeast’s leading scorer with 16 points, but had only two in the final quarter.
“It’s one of those games where sometimes you could have lost or won,” Donnell said. “We were fortunate to win.”