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Wharton can't keep pace

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2003

TAMPA -- Largo put its stamp all over the Leto Holiday Classic on Saturday.

Mike O'Donnell's 23 points were the catalyst to a 65-56 victory against Wharton in the boys championship game after the Packers girls beat Gaither to win their second straight title.

It was the second Leto title for the Largo boys, who won the inaugural tournament in 2000.

Largo needed O'Donnell's shooting touch after early foul trouble put the Packers behind as post players Kyle Johnson and Antwan Walker picked up three in the first quarter. O'Donnell was 4-of-10 from the floor in the first half, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Wildcats.

With the Packers in foul trouble, Wharton went to work with Branan Anderson, who had nine points and seven rebounds before halftime.

"(The foul trouble) changed (things) a lot, but Spencer Gibson came off the bench and did a heck of a job," Largo coach Phillip Price said. "And (Julius Oie) went over (and guarded Anderson) and did a heck of a job."

Anderson disappeared in the second half, registering five rebounds but only one point. Then, six straight points by Largo's Fred Marshall cut the margin to one less than three minutes into the third. The Packers used a 24-point quarter to erase their seven-point halftime deficit.

"That was our whole goal -- to tie it by the end of the third," Price said. "That first half, if we had made our free throws and layups, we may have tied it."

Two straight putbacks by Walker allowed the Packers to stay on top as Wharton connected on a pair of 3-pointers, but it was a three-point play from O'Donnell on the baseline with 4:36 to play that pushed the margin back to five and kept the Wildcats from making a comeback.

Third place went to Durant thanks to a heavy dose of R.L. Bond. The tournament MVP scored 33 points and grabbed 25 rebounds to lift the Cougars over the host Falcons 52-45.

"They were playing zone the whole game so I was open most of the time," Bond said.

Bond was the Durant offense in the first half, tallying 15 of the Cougars' 18 points.

But Leto's Chris Woolridge more than matched Bond in the first half as the Falcons didn't commit a turnover in the second quarter and staked themselves to a nine-point halftime lead.

Durant charged back with defense and a heavy dose of Bond in the third. The Cougars forced seven Leto turnovers in the quarter and Bond poured in 14 points. The rest of the Cougars added another seven to give Durant the lead, which it didn't relinquish.

"When you're young, you play inconsistent and you saw it there," Leto coach Derek Stewart said. "The same plays that were there in the first half were there in the second.

"We have a hard time competing with size. We don't have the guard play to come in there and help us out and our big guys were in foul trouble all night."

Robinson took advantage of 24 personal fouls by Sickles to send the Gryphons to a 70-61 defeat in the fifth-place game. The Knights put the game away from the foul line, where they hit 22-of-36.

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