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BRANDON -- Tampa Bay Tech, fueled by its suffocating defense, never trailed and remained perfect in Class 4A, District 9 with a convincing 51-28 victory at Armwood on Thursday.
"Coming into the game, we had never won at this place," Tech coach Heather Glezen said of the Tony Ippolito Memorial Gym. "The girls were really pumped and it showed."
The victory also helped the Titans ease the bitter memories from last season when Armwood ended Tech's season during the district tournament in the same gym.
"Last year was definitely on their minds," Glezen said. "Since I've been here, this has turned into a rivalry."
The Titans (14-2, 7-0) changed defensive looks throughout, utilizing their press to keep the Hawks off balance. Armwood (12-8) struggled in the first half against the pressure, but it was during the third quarter when the Titans clamped down for good. Tech outscored Armwood 17-2 during the quarter, turning a seven-point halftime lead into a 22-point cushion.
"We wanted to keep switching (defenses) up on them," Glezen said. "We wanted to confuse them and that was something we talked about at halftime."
Chinyere Okpaleke led all scorers with 21, taking advantage of the Hawks' inexperience in the paint. Armwood started two freshmen in the frontcourt and had no answer for Okpaleke.
With their pressure defense operating at full throttle, the Titans were able to shut down Moonie Oliver, Armwood's top scorer. Oliver, playing on tender knees, scored her first basket midway through the first but didn't score again until seven minutes remained in the game. She finished with eight points.
"What we wanted to due was frustrate her, but concentrate on the other players," Glezen said. "Oliver's a heck of a player and we figured she would get her points, but our plan was to limit everyone else."
Armwood coach Don Fields said Oliver's injured knees, not the Titans' harassing defense, was the key. "Her physical condition limited her more than any player on the court," he said.
Glezen has also had to deal with injuries throughout the season. Jasmine Mcleod is still not 100 percent following a broken leg sustained this summer during an AAU game. And leading rebounder Dallas McNeal missed her third game after spraining her knee against Wharton Jan. 8.