An 11-point outburst by Gaither's Antonio Russell gives his team the lead for good en route to a 66-53 win.
By BILL POWERS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2002
TAMPA -- Similar to a roller coaster with its peaks and valleys, Saturday's game between Gaither and Bloomingdale resembled such a ride.
Eventually the Cowboys wore down the visitors to win going away 66-53.
Gaither (15-3) jumped all over Bloomingdale to start the contest and led 9-0 before the Bulls could get the ball past midcourt thanks to its pressure defense.
"The one thing about our team is we're extremely quick and that makes up for our lack of size," Gaither coach Dwayne Olinger said.
After Bloomingdale coach Jack Sutter called an early timeout, his Bulls bounced back.
"For some reason we weren't ready," Sutter said.
"It's tough to make up nine points, but we did."
Bloomingdale (8-9) made up the deficit with a 14-2 run during the next five minutes to take its lone lead of the night, 14-11 with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
But that's when one of the area's top scorers took over.
Gaither's Antonio Russell, who averages 21 points per contest, reeled off the next 11 points during a 21/2-minute stretch to give the Cowboys a 22-14 advantage.
"They've got good athletes and it's hard to match up," Sutter said.
Bloomingdale mounted another comeback in the third quarter, closing to within 34-33 with 3:38 remaining, but again the Cowboys (15-3) regained control after Brandon Harris converted a reverse layup. A few possessions later, Harris made a steal, hit the layup and added a free throw for good measure.
Harris led all scorers with 20 points to match his season average.
"With our quickness, we're able to create turnovers and get to the basket and get fouled," Olinger said of his team's up-tempo style.
And the hosts made the Bulls pay by converting 20 of 24 free throws compared to five of 12 by Bloomingdale, and hit 10 of 12 foul shots in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"Free throws make a big difference, especially in a game like this," Olinger said.
Bloomingdale's Kenny Grant led the Bulls with 16 points followed by Jean Lebron and Brad Doss, who scored 14 and 12 respectively.