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'Cats claw way to first crown

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002

BARTOW -- Wesley Chapel spent three quarters nipping at Bartow's heels in Saturday night's championship game.

Once Wesley Chapel coach Kent Mills made a slight adjustment in the third quarter, the Wildcats took over.

Mills began using his forward to move the ball upcourt. Bartow seemed to ease off its fullcourt press after the change. Wesley Chapel took advantage with a 17-4 run to start the fourth quarter, then held off a late Yellow Jackets surge for a 74-71 win and its first district championship.

Wesley Chapel (22-8) plays host to the winner of Saturday's Tampa Catholic-Jesuit game on Thursday in a regional quarterfinal.

After beating the press in the fourth quarter, Wesley Chapel finally was able to free up its guards for outside shots.

"Early in the third quarter, their man-to-man pressure was awesome on our guards, so we told our big men to bring the basketball up the court," Mills said. "Then I started my guards on a loop, setting picks, and that opened up their threes. That changed the game for us."

The Wildcats were led in the final quarter by Sandor Riholm and Eric Sorensen. Riholm scored six of his 14 points in the quarter before fouling out with 2 minutes, 52 seconds to play. Sorensen struggled in the first half with four points. However, he produced six of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Wesley Chapel got an early boost from the bench. Junior Paul Pinprel scored eight of his 11 points in the second quarter. Sparked by Lance Leggett's game-high 19 points, Bartow (12-15) rallied from a 71-63 deficit with 1:09 to play. The Jackets hit two 3-pointers and a short jumper, reducing the lead to 74-71 with five seconds. However, Bartow couldn't get close enough for a final 3-pointer.

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