The Falcons refuse to let Tampa Catholic complete a comeback bid in a 49-41 victory.
By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 4, 2002
TAMPA -- Trailing Leto for much of the game, Tampa Catholic finally seemed to get what it needed Thursday night in the A.P. Leto Holiday Classic.
Minutes into the second half and well on the run it wanted, Tampa Catholic was down by just three. But that was as close as the Crusaders would get.
Leto cut off Tampa Catholic's run en route to a 49-41 victory at Pierce Middle School.
Leto evened its record at 7-7 while the Crusaders fell to 3-9.
"I thought there were two keys tonight," Leto coach Todd Price said. "Our point guards made key decisions, and when they were able to make runs, we applied pressure defense."
Leto led by nine after the first quarter and seemed to be on its way to a blowout in its own tournament.
But the Crusaders fought back thanks to the play of center Candice Giles, who finished with 19 points.
Tampa Catholic, which trailed by as many as 10 points at one time, forged numerous comebacks, whittling the deficit down to five twice and to three early in the third quarter. But each time Tampa Catholic was within striking distance, Leto nailed a 3-pointer, made a key layup, forced a turnover or pressured the Crusaders into an ill-advised shot.
Guard Yarenis Blanco led Leto with 16 points, including three free throws in the game's final moments.
Falcons forwards Holly Manninen and J.J. Womble also had big games, combining for 29 points and nine rebounds.
Gaither also advanced to the second round after defeating Lake Wales 52-33. Tosha Ross and Elaine Evans combined for 40 points as the Cowboys broke open a close game.
Leto will face Gaither tonight in the semifinals at 9:15. Wharton and Largo will square off in the other semifinal at 5:45.