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Big run rescues Citrus

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

INVERNESS -- Citrus was plagued by turnovers, didn't move well on offense at times and struggled from the field in its opener Tuesday against archrival Lecanto.

It didn't matter.

Thanks to a torrid third-quarter run, the Hurricanes won easily 66-48, avenging a three-point loss to the Panthers at home in February.

"We played well enough to win, and that's all that matters," Citrus forward Joel Miller said. "It was a great win. In my career here, I had never beaten them at home."

After Citrus started the second half with a 22-6 run, the outcome was never in doubt. The Hurricanes led 25-20 at the half but opened the third quarter with five 3-pointers in four minutes, then got a three-point play from center Brandon Green to take the air out of Lecanto.

"In the third quarter, they came at us and we didn't respond well," Panthers coach Chris Nichols said. "There wasn't a whole lot we could do. We even called timeout to get our guys settled down."

It didn't work.

Citrus scored 24 in the third quarter, led by nine of Miller's team-high 14 points. He drained three 3-pointers in a span of 95 seconds, following two 3-pointers by teammate Jamaal Galloway (11 points). Five of Citrus' six 3-pointers came in the quarter.

"We went into the locker room thinking it was zero-zero," Miller said. "Then we went out and played hard."

Citrus led 13-6 after one quarter and went up 25-15 late in the first half. But Lecanto closed to within five at the break after point guard Landon Baize and center Scotty Johnson combined for five points in the final 25 seconds. Citrus had a 21-7 rebounding edge at the half.

"I was definitely happy with the first half, to get outrebounded like we did and still be down only five points," Nichols said. "In the second half, I can't say there were a whole lot of bright moments."

Green (12) and Donnie Ross (11) also scored in double figures for Citrus. Drew Zimbro led Lecanto with 17 points. Baize had nine.

"There are some things we can work on, but overall I was pleased with the effort," Hurricanes coach Jimmy Thomas said.

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