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Cowboys escape with 72-70 victory

A last-second shot by Tampa Prep falls short as Gaither wins the first game between the teams.

By ROD GIPSON
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002


TAMPA -- When officials at Gaither and Tampa Prep realized they had openings in their basketball schedules this season, they decided to face each other for the first time.

If the inaugural matchup is any indication, they should do this more often.

The Terrapins came into the contest with inside power and a height advantage.

The Cowboys countered with quickness and aggression on both ends of the floor.

After four quarters, seven lead changes and several standout individual performances, Gaither watched Tampa Prep miss a last-second shot to survive a 72-70 thriller.

"We thought this would be a tough game," said Gaither coach Dwayne Olinger, whose team improved to 13-3 with the victory.

"They have a great program and any time you can beat a team with the tradition they have, it's a big win."

With the game deadlocked at 61 with less than 4 minutes remaining, the Cowboys went on an 8-2 run to grab a 69-63 lead.

Tampa Prep struck back. Alleo Frazier hit his third 3-pointer of the game and David Smith added a layup seconds later as Tampa Prep, ranked fifth in last week's Class 2A state poll, closed the gap to 71-70. Then, after running for 31 minutes, the Cowboys stood still -- almost.

Gaither played keep-away with a minute left in the game, until Antonio Russell was fouled with 25 seconds remaining.

After missing the first free throw, Russell nailed the second, putting Gaither up by two.

After a timeout, Tampa Prep got off two shots, the second coming from Maurece Daniels as the horn sounded, bouncing off the rim to seal Gaither's win.

"They played a nice game," Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said. "They outhustled us at times and beat us back in transition a few times.

"I thought our pressure might have more of an effect on them later on, but it didn't."

Frazier, Daniels and Smith each scored in double figures for Tampa Prep, which fell to 13-4 on the season. Daniels scored 19 points, Smith had 18 and Frazier had 13.

Gaither's Russell led all scorers with 31 points, nine coming in the fourth period.

Brandon Harrison scored 14 and Kareem Garibaldi added 11 for the Cowboys.

"I can't say enough about my kids," Olinger said.

"They're not big, but they are quick, they're tough and they are a battling group."

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