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Leopards do whatever it takes

An offensive switch helps Hernando bury Springstead 66-47.

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 4, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando lost all five starters to graduation after last season, leaving behind a group with little varsity experience. But if there is one area where the Leopards have experience, it's in making adjustments.

Hernando adjusted to its graduation losses. It adjusted to injuries that sidelined two other players (guard/forward Scott Minichino and forward Josh Norris) for all or part of the season.

It adjusted when the football team made the playoffs, keeping five players away from practice for much of the preseason.

In Tuesday's season-opening 66-47 victory over Springstead, the Leopards adjusted again.

"It was a game of adjustments, and I thought we did a pretty good job in the second quarter and certainly after halftime making adjustments in taking advantage of what they gave us," Hernando coach Jeff Laing said.

Recognizing that his team had an advantage on the inside post, Laing called a second-quarter timeout and changed the offense. Center Nate Howell scored two quick baskets, and Hernando turned a back-and-forth game into a nine-point halftime lead.

The Leopards' success underneath the basket opened up the outside game in the third quarter. Forward Joel Hoogewind scored 12 of his game-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers, in the quarter as Hernando outscored Springstead 20-11 to put the game away.

"They were playing a 3-2 defense, and once we made the adjustment of getting a mismatch on the baseline, then we were all right," Laing said. "We just had to convince the kids to trust the offense and good things started happening. We got layups, and we got open jump shots."

Hernando's Chris Korbus, the junior varsity's leading scorer last season, returned after missing two weeks with an infection. Playing at the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, Korbus scored nine of his 13 points, including a 3-pointer, in the second half.

Chris Pape matched Hoogewind's 17 points to lead Springstead. Tadd Hale had 12, and Mitchell transfer Jonathon Cagan added 11.

With the exception of the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach, the Leopards accomplished their goal of holding the Eagles to fewer than 12 points per quarter.

Unlike Hernando (1-0), which had the benefit of two preseason games, Tuesday's game was Springstead's first of any kind.

The Eagles (0-1) dressed eight players, including two freshmen and two sophomores. Junior Jose Yearwood was coming off a knee injury sustained in the second-to-last week of football season.

"We've got to get better," Springstead coach Scott Bennett said. "Our defense is horrible. But we've got a bunch of kids who are inexperienced at the varsity level.

"When you're playing at the JV level, you don't have five good players out there. You can take a play off. You do it here, they find them and you get burnt."

Help could be on the way. Junior guard Darrin Hedges, sidelined with a back injury, could return to the lineup soon.

"That's our outside game," Bennett said.

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