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Bucs rally to defeat Rams for third time

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2002


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Gulf's 62-52 victory over Ridgewood in Saturday's Class 4A, District 8 final can be summed up thusly:

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Gulf's 62-52 victory over Ridgewood in Saturday's Class 4A, District 8 final can be summed up thusly:

Unbelievable.

Rams coach Gary Anders didn't see this one coming. After his team was swept by the Bucs by a combined two points this season, he didn't believe his Rams would lose a third time, at home, holding a 13-point lead with 6:31 left in the first half.

Gulf coach Steve Feldman didn't see this one coming. Down by six at the half, his team outhustled and on the ropes, the Bucs stormed back in the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a 10-point lead.

Afterward, Feldman could not take his eyes off the 4A-8 trophy -- the school's first title in 39 years. Nor could he believe his team's effort in the second half as top-seeded Gulf outworked and outscored No.2 Ridgewood 37-21, 18-9 in the fourth.

"These kids never fail to surprise me and amaze me," he said. "They just dug down very, very deep and decided how bad they wanted it. It just showed an incredible amount of guts, and that's the way they've been all year."

What a way to end a bewildering season. Ridgewood swept Wesley Chapel to win the Sunshine Athletic Conference title. But it could not earn the top seed in its own district tournament and was, in turn, swept by Gulf in three games -- twice at home -- a team swept by 3A-10 champ Wesley Chapel.

Gulf (23-6) hosts 4A-7 runner-up Lecanto (15-10) in Thursday's regional quarterfinals -- the school's first playoff game in 39 years -- while Ridgewood (25-6) will visit 4A-7 champion and No.8 Leesburg (26-5).

Joe Phillips led the Bucs with 13 points, dropping two 3-pointers, going 5-of-5 from the free-throw line and scoring five in the fourth. Freshman Justin Sconiers came off the bench to score 11.

Nate Bradley scored 19 for the Rams, and Mike Argerenon 18. But Ridgewood was outshot at the line, going 6-of-14 to Gulf's 20-of-27.

"For the 25 times I've been really proud and happy for them this year," Anders said, "I had to tell them I was sincerely disappointed in them tonight. I really felt we had kids who came up short tonight.

"You're going to have a bad game, but I can't imagine not being full of vim and vigor for the district championship."

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