A second-half rally helps Wharton defeat King and win its third district championship in five years.
By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2002
TAMPA -- Top seed Wharton trailed nearly the entire first half, and seemed completely unfazed.
Tied with King at halftime, the Wildcats relied on a burst of energy and a smothering man-to-man defense to win the district championship 43-31 on Saturday.
The title is the second consecutive and third overall in Wharton's five-year history.
"This game was a test of the girls' character," Wharton coach Eddie Henderson said. "And for the umpteenth time, they came through."
The Wildcats (22-4) began in rare form, missing shots and committing an uncharacteristic slew of turnovers in the first quarter. The Lions (10-10) came out on a 7-0 run and had a seven-point lead heading into the second quarter.
King's lack of experience versus Wharton's eight seniors eventually caught up, though. Wildcats senior center Candice Dupree and junior guard Derika Folks led the charge, each scoring a game-high 14 points.
The Wildcats held the Lions to one field goal in the third quarter and outscored the Lions 21-9 in the second half.
"We hit a slump," King coach Eric Brooks said.
"But I'm happy with the way the girls played, and I'm happy with where we are now. We only won five games last season, and we've doubled that this year and have a regional berth."
The Lions were led by junior guard Fatura Crawford and junior forward Jennifer Moody, who each scored seven.
Wharton will host the 5A-7 winner in a regional quarterfinal on Thursday, while King must travel.
-- EMILY NIPPS
TAMPA -- After a slow start, it was all Berkeley Prep in Saturday's final against Academy of the Holy Names.
Berkeley won 45-34, but not before trailing 16-13 at halftime.
"We weren't quite sure what was going on in the first half, but the baskets just weren't falling," Berkeley Prep coach Alexa Manning said. "I was happy with the second half because we started running the floor and getting some shots to fall.
"This feels good. This team has been together for four years and we finally won (a district title)."
Berkeley (21-7) will host Clearwater Central Catholic in Thursday's regional quarterfinals. Academy (18-14) will travel to St. Petersburg Catholic. Academy was playing without its top player, Danielle Darby, who tore an anterior-cruciate ligament a week ago in the team's final regular-season game.
"We did well to make it to the district final, winning a huge (semifinal) against Tampa Prep without (Darby)," Academy coach Jeff Pafunda said. "It's hard to pull off back-to-back victories like that without your best player.
"I thought we had a chance after that first half, but we just couldn't keep it up."
Christine Gladysz did most of the damage, scoring a game-high 25 points, including all the Buccaneers' points in a 12-2 fourth-quarter run that put Berkeley ahead to stay.
"I was finally able to get to the basket and start shooting," Gladysz said. "I finally had a chance to score."
-- SCOTT PURKS
TAMPA -- Tampa Baptist came into its championship game against Seminole Presbyterian with a new plan of attack. In fact, it was all attack.
After losing twice to the Lancers during the regular season, Tampa Baptist developed a new strategy and came right at Seminole Presbyterian, resulting in foul trouble for two of the Lancers' leading players.
But Seminole Presbyterian's bench, filled with eighth- and ninth-graders, filled in perfectly and led the Lancers to a 58-50 win.
Seminole Presbyterian (28-5) will host Lakeland Christian Thursday in the region quarterfinals while Tampa Baptist (16-10) will travel to Winter Haven All Saints'.
"They had a good game plan and that was to take it to us," Seminole Presbyterian coach Karim Nohra said. "And we allowed them to take it to us and that got Betsy (Brown) and Audrey (Gilbert) in foul trouble. But our young bench contributed to the (win) tonight. They came through and saved us."
Even with Brown and Gilbert on the bench early in the first half, the Rams were unable to take advantage of the Lancers' lineup, which included two eighth-graders, two ninth-graders and a senior.
Seminole Presbyterian outscored the Rams every quarter and never let Tampa Baptist score more than 13 in a quarter. A large part of that was the Rams' inability to make shots. Thirteen of their first 23 points came on free throws.
Seminole, meanwhile, played steadily throughout, led by senior Meghan McNiff, who scored 12 points. That came one game after McNiff topped 1,000 points for her career.
-- MIKE READLING
RIVERVIEW -- With Sarah Lancaster leading the Sailors' fastbreak offense, Sarasota pulled away from Bloomingdale early in the fourth quarter en route to a 62-48 win.
The Bulls (17-6) could find no answer for Lancaster, who had 21 points and seven rebounds. More important, Lancaster pestered Bulls point guard Ariel Lyons, holding her to two points and creating numerous fastbreak opportunities for the Sailors (24-4).
"We play a lot of pressure defense, forcing the other team into making mistakes," Lancaster said. "Our offense relies a lot on our defensive pressure."
Lancaster was at her best in the fourth quarter, reeling off six consecutive points for Sarasota. Lancaster picked Lyons' pocket for a layup that gave the Sailors their biggest lead at 58-38.
Lancaster, who had 19 points in the Sailors' semifinal victory Thursday against Gaither, picked up the slack for Shelby Weber, who fouled out in the fourth quarter with 12 points after scoring 20 against the Cowboys.
"Whoever's on takes over," Lancaster said of the Sailors' scoring. "We've had six different kids be top scorer. Whoever's on picks up the team."
The Bulls, who lost to the Sailors three times, climbed within six at the half, 32-26. But with Lancaster's pressure out front and Weber's intimidation underneath, the Bulls could get no closer. Sarasota outscored Bloomingdale 14-7 in the third quarter.
"We got Weber in foul trouble, but we took too long to get her out of the game," Bloomingdale coach Mike Kiser said. "They're all shooters. They're a smart, well-coached team."
-- ANTHONY GAGLIANO
TAMPA -- Robinson's fullcourt press suppressed Tampa Catholic, holding the Crusaders scoreless in the first quarter as the Knights cruised to a 78-38 win.
Tampa Catholic (7-17) was unable to play catch-up after a 24-point deficit in the first quarter. Robinson (18-5) held a commanding 48-11 lead at halftime.
Johnessa Griffin led Robinson with 16 points. Felicia Walker added 14. Walker nailed back-to-back 3-pointers just before the half. In the third quarter, Tampa Catholic was able to put some points on the board with help from Kimberly Bushe, who led the team with 12. But it was too little too late as Robinson took a 66-23 lead into the fourth quarter and began to substitute freely.
"We don't win with only five players. It takes a whole team effort to get this far," Robinson coach Carl Green said. "We started with the fullcourt press to contain Tampa Catholic's scoring early."
-- ERICA A. LEONARD
SEFFNER -- Deanna Jackson's 3-pointer with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter forced overtime as Armwood erased a four-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation to beat Brandon 64-61 on Saturday.
"We've been coming from behind for the last two or three weeks, so we stayed pretty well focused," Armwood coach Don Fields said. "We knew it was going to be a battle back and forth all game."
Trailing 55-52, Jackson inbounded the ball, stepped to the 3-point arc, got the return pass and drained the game-tying shot from the left wing.
"It was a designed play," Jackson said. "We've been practicing it for a week now and Coach just figured when I stepped in (the defender) wouldn't pick me up and that's what happened."
A pair of Moonie Oliver free throws extended Armwood's lead to 64-61 with five seconds to play and Kiana Robinson's 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out, preserving the victory.
"(Brandon) beat us twice this season and we just wanted to give it our all," Jackson said. "We knew we had the talent to beat them."
Robinson led all scorers with 38 points. Oliver scored five of her team-high 19 points in overtime and Cricket Coty had 11.
-- BRANDON WRIGHT