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Gaither's title bid falls short

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003

TAMPA -- The Leto Holiday Classic championship trophy remains with Largo for another year.

The Packers cruised through the first two rounds of the tournament but had a tougher time Saturday night before pulling away to defeat Gaither 55-43 in a rematch of last year's final.

The Packers won their first two games 59-24 and 70-38, but Gaither used a larger lineup to stifle Largo's inside game.

Gaither led 2-0 in the opening moments before Largo scored the next 11 and never relinquished the lead.

"We matched up with them pretty well size-wise, but we just don't have the overall speed they do," Gaither coach Bill Agatheas said.

Largo's Shaneisha Walton, the tournament MVP, was held in check by the Gaither defense early, allowing the Cowboys to close to 13-11 in the second quarter. Then Walton took over.

Walton went to work on the offensive glass to score the game's next seven points on two putbacks and three free throws to give the Packers to a 24-13 halftime lead.

"She played a real good all-around game tonight," Largo coach Leonard Williams said.

Walton led all scorers with 18. She added 12 rebounds, 6 blocks and 3 steals. "They played us tough," Walton said of the Cowboys. "But I know there are a lot of points where I can improve." Largo's freshman backcourt of Alexis Henry and Tashyra Feazell added 12 and nine points, and junior Monique Henson tossed in 12. Henson and Henry were named to the all-tournament team. "My guards did a good job tonight," Walton said of the trio. "They stepped it up tonight."

Gaither's Elanie Evans was the lone Cowboy in double figures with 18 and was also named to the all-tournament team. In the consolation games, Lakewood defeated Brandon 60-46 for fifth place and Robinson beat Leto 39-31 for third.

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