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Panthers' home court gets cozy make over

Plant's floor shrinks by 8 feet to correct a subcontractor's mistake.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 9, 2002

TAMPA -- Coming off last season's state semifinal appearance, Mike Phillips knew his Plant boys team was going to garner some attention this season. But what happened at the school Tuesday caught even him by surprise.

Television crews and reporters arrived to do interviews and record footage of the Panthers' newest addition. Well, perhaps subtraction is a better word.

Phillips' Panthers are 13-2 and ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, but the main attraction Tuesday was the recently shortened court in the school's new gym.

The "trouble" for Plant began in the preseason when junior varsity player Oriana Bruno ran into the wall surrounding the court and suffered a concussion and broken collar bone. Investigation into the court area showed that the playing surface was 8 feet longer than what Phillips drew up for Trident Surfacing, the subcontractor that performed the work.

"The basketball court was painted too long and exceeded our specs," said Mark Hart, spokesman for the Hillsborough County school district. "Most high school courts are 84 feet long. This one was painted to 92 feet."

The court is now 84 feet long and 50 feet wide with 9 feet of clearance between the end line and wall, though even at 92 feet long, Plant's court was legal according to Florida High School Activities Association rules.

The FHSAA rules say basketball courts must be between 84 and 94 feet long and 50 feet wide, FHSAA spokesman Jack Watford said.

Many blamed Bruno's accident on the fact that the distance between the end line and the back wall was 5 feet, but even that conforms to FHSAA and National High School Federation standards.

"Our regulations state that to be able to host a state series championship -- anything from a district tournament to states -- there has to be a minimum of 6 feet of unobstructed space between the end line and another structure," Watford said.

"As far as the regular season goes, we don't get into that. The National High School Federation book specifies a length of at least 3 feet and preferably 10 feet."

Hart said the court was shortened -- at Trident's expense plus the cost of additional padding on the wall -- during the holiday break but did not attribute the 5-foot space to Bruno's accident.

"I'll tell you one thing, this is the last time we are going to have subcontractor consult with a coach," Hart said.

Basketball courts throughout the county vary in size and distance between the end line and back wall. Tampa Catholic's court is 94 feet by 50 feet with 8 feet, 10 inches clearance to the wall while Tampa Prep owns an 84 by 50 court with 5 feet to a heavily padded wall.

Jefferson played at Plant on Dec. 15, the Dragons' only complaint the 58-56 loss they suffered.

"Personally, I didn't feel like they were too close. It was no big deal for us," Dragons assistant coach Henry Washington Jr. said. "When I played in college at Dillard University, we played at Texas Christian and they had the poles that were holding up the gym right next to the court. We were inbounding the ball around poles.

"Some people will get in an uproar about anything."

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