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Crusaders clamp down on Osceola in 57-34 win

By DON JENSEN
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2002

TAMPA -- Feeling the pressure, Tampa Catholic turned to its fullcourt press. Osceola never had a chance after that.

The Crusaders (7-16) forced 31 turnovers and held the Warriors to 24 percent shooting Friday night as they rolled to a 57-34 victory.

The win puts Tampa Catholic in tonight's championship game against host Robinson at 7:30, and guarantees the Crusaders a spot in next week's regional tournament.

Osceola (2-15), which split two regular-season meetings with Tampa Catholic, had a younger starting lineup than usual after two of its top scorers quit the team several weeks ago.

Once the Crusaders found a defensive answer to Ryan Jones (game-high 20 points), they didn't look back.

"(Jones) was obviously in the spotlight for us," Tampa Catholic coach Greg Finkel said. "She's been a wonderful player throughout the season, and she's hurt us two games in a row."

Candace Giles led Tampa Catholic with 19 points and Kimberly Bushe added 11. But it was the Crusaders' defense that turned the game into a rout.

Trailing 9-4 four minutes into the contest, Tampa Catholic went in front for good with a 19-3 run to close the first half. Osceola made only one of its final 13 first-half shots.

Jones was the only Warrior to score for a 20-minute stretch starting midway through the first quarter.

That defensive effort by the Crusaders sparked a 41-8 surge and pushed their lead to as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter.

The offensive dry spell didn't surprise Osceola coach Brad Meredith.

"When you looked on the floor for us, you primarily saw two sophomores and three freshmen," Meredith said. "We're basically a JV team playing against varsity competition, which means we're just trying to learn."

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