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Gaither loses tourney title in OT

Largo hits its free throws in the closing moments while the Cowboys go cold in a 58-56 thriller.

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© St. Petersburg Times
published January 6, 2002

TAMPA -- Tournament championship games should be down-to-the-wire thrillers.

And that's exactly what Saturday's crowd at the Leto Holiday Classic got to see as Monique Henson converted two free throws with 25.8 seconds left in overtime to give Largo a 58-56 win against Gaither.

But Largo coach Leonard Williams could have done without the theatrics.

"It was too exciting," he said, his voice hoarse from screaming. "They really hustled and came back."

The Cowboys (11-5) went into the fourth quarter with a 39-36 lead as Largo had four starters in foul trouble. Still, the Packers (12-1) used a full-court press to create turnovers. It worked.

Tournament MVP Monica Adams, who picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter, had three steals that turned into six points and gave Largo a 48-46 lead with less than a minute to play in regulation.

"Monica had an outstanding game," Williams said. "She played team ball. She just played outstanding."

Forward Elaine Evans, who led Gaither with 19 points, tied the game with a layup. With 15 seconds left, Largo center Shaneisha Walton took an inbounds pass from Adams and gave the Packers a two-point lead with a jump shot. But with 3 seconds remaining, Gaither guard Natalie Caldwell tied the game at 50 to force overtime. Adams started the extra quarter with a layup. But after both teams converted two free throws, Cowboys center Tosha Ross, who finished with 16 points, scored consecutive baskets to give her team a 56-54 lead.

Despite Gaither's attempts to draw fouls in the closing moments, the Packers committed only one. Caldwell missed the one-and-one. Largo, on the other hand, made good on four free throws and Gaither missed three shots in the final 20 seconds to win the game.

"It's probably the best game we've played all year by far," Gaither coach Bill Agatheas said. "We made a lot of clutch plays, but (Largo) hustled and we allowed them to come back. We got a little rattled at the end with the crowd noise, that's my only real criticism."

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