The Rams (24-3) avenged a loss in the Regional Semifinals last year, rolling past University (20-8), 59-36, in a Class 6A semi in Orlando.
Lake Mary will be at home tonight (Saturday) to host powerful Buchholz from Gainesville, which eliminated Orange Park by a single point, 64-63, in Jacksonville on Tuesday. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Silver Hawks (26-2), meanwhile, pulled off one of the biggest surprises in Florida girls basketball in a long time.
The surprise wasn’t Lake Howell winning the game, but it was the way the Silver Hawks completely dismantled Winter Haven (21-7), 71-44, at Jack Deedrick Gymnasium in the Class 5A-Region 2 Semifinals.
The Blue Devils were looking for their 11th consecutive trip to the regional championship game and, in fact, had played in the state championship game each of the past five seasons.
The loss was just the second for Winter Haven in the past nine years and was also the first time the Blue Devils ever had the running clock, a 35-plus point lead in the second half, used against them.
Lake Howell will need the same kind of intensity tonight (Saturday), as the Silver Hawks, which are riding a 25-game winning streak, will face a fellow 26-2 squad in Wesley Chapel, which beat Tampa Bay Tech 43-34 in the semis. Game time again is set for 7 p.m.
Lake Mary rode the outstanding all-around games of senior Jen Knurek and sophomore Morgan Jones and the amazing defense of senior Shakeyia Colyer to ease past the upset-minded Cougars.
Colyer held University star January Miller, who came into the game averaging 26 points in the playoffs, to a single field goal in the first half as the Rams raced to a 33-15 lead at halftime.
The home team kept the game reasonably close in the second half, getting outscored just 26-21, but Lake Mary still held its second straight regional opponent to under 40 points.
Knurek continues to be the surprise of the playoffs, as she led the Rams in scoring for the fourth consecutive game.
The 6-foot center dominated the paint, scoring 19 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Jones, who was an honorable mention all-state player as a freshman, had a super game also as the 6-foot-1 swingman had 17 points and hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds.
Colyer scored just seven points, but she was more concerned with her defense on Miller, whom she held to 16 points.
All seven Rams players scored with Sarah Taylor (six), DJ Irving (five), Savannah Fahed (three) and Atlanta Cranias (two) also contributing.
Despite all of the success of the Lake Howell girls program over the past five seasons, this will mark the first time the Silver Hawks will advance to the Regional Championship Game.
Lake Howell took the hosts out of the game immediately, forcing four straight turnovers and an airball on a three-point attempt, as its cruised to an 18-3 lead and limited the Blue Devils to three field goals in building a 21-8 lead after the first quarter.
The Silver Hawks defense again went to work in the second period, holding Winter Haven without a score over the first 4:25 of the quarter, while the offense, led by Ashley Jones, who scored 17 points in the first half, was dropping in another 11 points to make the score 32-10 with 3:35 left in the half.
The teams were a little more even the remainder of the half, but Lake Howell still led 44-18 at intermission and outrebounded the hosts, 19-9.
The second half didn’t get a lot better for Winter Haven, which never got closer than 23 points over the final 16 minutes.
Jones, who hit four three-pointers, finished with a game-high 28 points, and also had five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Kasie Parker (15 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Tynia McKenzie (12 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a steal) also had huge games for the Silver Hawks.
Correy Johnson (six points, 11 rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists), Sierra Gammons (six points, two rebounds), Cabi Duren (four points, nine assists, two rebounds, two steals) and Brooke Bowie (eight rebounds, four blocked shots, two steals) also contributed.
Yesenia Lora led Winter Haven with 21 points.
The third local entry in the regionals, Lake Mary Prep (20-10) saw its season end at the hands of district rival Trinity Christian (22-6), 54-42, in Deltona.
It was the third time in as many meetings this season that the Eagles had beaten the Griffins.
Trinity seemed well on its way to the regional finals as the hosts held LMP star Toni Pratsch to just 2-for-11 shooting in the first half while building a 22-10 lead at halftime.
But behind Pratsch, who finished with 17 points, the Griffins made a run at the hosts, cutting the lead to nine points, 34-25, after three periods and then getting as close as 43-40 with a minute left.
That’s when a familiar face stepped up to end the hopes of LMP as Alisha Collins, who played four years at LMP before transferring to TC for her senior season, came up with a steal on an inbounds play and passed to a teammate for a layup to push the lead back to five.
In addition to Pratsch, other scorers for the Griffins were Samantha Moore with 10 points, Spencer Krim with nine points and Chlesea Mincey with six points.
The loss ended a great four years for Pratsch, who finished he career with 2,405 points, including 703 points this season while averaging 23.4-points, four assists and four steals a game. She was also selected as District Most Valuable Player for the second time in a vote of the other coaches.
Another team with local interest, Farther Lopez, also saw its season end as the Green Wave (23-6) were outscored 11-0 and saw an eight-point lead with three minutes left evaporate as homestanding The First Academy rallied to win 44-40.
Jessica Russi, who played at Sanford’s All Souls Catholic School, scored a team-high 18 points for Father Lopez, including a 12-foot jumper with less than a minute left that ended the 11-0 drought and got her club within 41-40.