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MVP Hale sparks Eagles' turnaround


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 22, 2002

SPRING HILL -- There are times when Springstead's Tadd Hale will do something that drives coach Scott Bennett absolutely crazy.

Rushing the ball down court at a breakneck pace, the senior point guard will dribble into traffic or throw a pass out of bounds.

But it is that same aggressiveness and coolness under pressure that makes Hale the team's leader.

"I'll accept those mistakes, because he'll come down there and make something really good happen," Bennett said.

Saturday, Hale spearheaded a 43-point turnaround that gave the Eagles their first Springstead Christmas Tournament title. Three days after losing to Hudson by 36 points, the Eagles conquered the Cobras 52-45.

Hale scored 10 of his team-high 14 between the second and third quarters as Springstead outscored Hudson 28-19 to take a six-point lead.

The victory, the Eagles' second straight, snapped the Cobras' four-game winning streak and avenged a 62-26 loss Wednesday.

"The last thing (before) they walked out on the floor, I had the score up on the board just to remind them," Bennett said. "They were focused."

Hudson (6-3) kept Springstead (2-4) on its heels for much of Wednesday's game. But the Eagles handled the Cobras' ball pressure Saturday, allowing them to get shots closer to the basket.

Much of the credit belonged to Hale, who was named tournament MVP.

"He looks like a much better player than he showed against us the first time, for sure," Hudson coach Steve Casel said. "He's a more confident player, and so much of sports is between the ears. When you've got that confidence and you get on one of those rolls, the game just seems easier."

The game was the fourth this week for weary Hudson, which shot 7 of 18 (39 percent) from the foul line after averaging 75 to 80 percent from the line the past few games.

"It was just a matter of which team had the stamina to go the long haul," Casel said. "I take my hat off to them. They played well enough to win."

River Ridge defeated Tarpon Springs 53-49 in the consolation game. Kyle DiMartino scored 18 points and Austin Gibson added 11 for the Royal Knights (2-7). Ryan Caswell's 15 paced the Spongers (0-8).

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