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Spongers' road leads to 20 wins

The Tarpon Springs girls find satisfaction playing in a district with Pasco County teams.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2003

Katherine Chapman knows life on the road quite well, it goes with the territory at Tarpon Springs.

If the Spongers aren't at home, they must be in some faraway Pasco County gym, absorbing all sorts of colorful comments from the crowd.

"Out in the country areas, fans aren't very polite to the opposing players," the senior said. "But if you have the fans screaming at you, it makes you want to try that much harder."

Silence from opposing fans means indifference, that you're not a threat worth catcalls. This season, however, Tarpon is getting an earful. The Spongers, for the first time in years, are dangerous.

Few in Pinellas County might realize it, as the north county team has been a de facto Pasco squad by district assignment. In Class 4A, District 8, Tarpon battles the likes of Ridgewood, Land O'Lakes and River Ridge.

But in that group the Spongers have excelled, building a 20-6 overall record and claiming the second seed for this week's district tournament at Mitchell.

"It's been very satisfying," coach John Royal said. "I've been preaching at them long enough that they're capable of doing this."

Royal could see it coming, as a core group of seniors grew up. Now the nucleus includes Chapman, a self-described "point guard in a post player's body" who ranks among the county's assist leaders, Erika Siauciunas, a power forward averaging an eye-popping 15 rebounds a game, and Kelly Driscoll, a prolific 3-point shooter.

The veteran team knows this is both their last shot and their school's first shot in a while to make February noise.

"We feel we can play with (No.1 seed) Ridgewood, but that's how Land O'Lakes feels about us and how Gulf feels about us, so they're going to be hungry too," Chapman said. "Now that we've won a lot of games, we're the target."

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