By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2002
BELLEVIEW -- Citrus will have to be forgiven for starting a bit slow in its Diamondback Rattler Challenge game Saturday against Ocala Kingdom.
Tipoff was at 8 a.m.
And that's not all: The previous night, the Hurricanes won at Lecanto, their biggest rival.
"It was difficult," Citrus guard Chris Vihrachoff said.
But not difficult enough to keep the Hurricanes from defeating Ocala Kingdom 65-47. Citrus, which led by four at halftime and eight after three quarters, blew open a close game with a 25-point fourth quarter that included a 14-of-19 effort from the foul line.
"We didn't come out mentally prepared at the start," Vihrachoff said. "I think we underestimated them a bit. We thought we would blow them away and they turned out to be a good team."
The challenge is a one-day event that features nine games. Because the schedule is tight, the first game started at 8 a.m. and the final game began at 8 p.m. Citrus (15-3) was picked for the opening slot, but was glad to be there because the challenge is scouted by numerous college coaches.
"We didn't make an issue of (the early start)," Hurricanes coach Jimmy Thomas said.
After looking somewhat sluggish during the first three quarters, Citrus picked things up in the final eight minutes. With his team ahead 40-37, guard Jamaal Galloway, who scored a game-high 18 points, drained a 3-pointer from the left wing and was fouled while shooting. His free throw gave the Hurricanes a seven-point lead and they cruised from there.
Galloway scored 10 fourth-quarter points.
Guards Joel Miller (16 points) and Vihrachoff (14) also had productive games.
"We stepped up and played pretty good," Thomas said. "We did the things we had to do when it was crucial."
Ocala Kingdom (13-8) was led by Dexter Roberts, who scored 11.