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Land O'Lakes surprises Tarpon Springs 41-40

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 8: A year after being upset, the Gators take their turn and earn a playoff berth.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2003

TRINITY -- Land O'Lakes avenged its own upset in last year's district semifinals by pulling off the surprise of this year.

No. 3 Land O'Lakes stunned No. 2 Tarpon Springs 41-40 in Thursday night's semifinal.

After two losses, the Gators (18-7) bested the Spongers (21-7) on their third try to advance to Saturday's 7:30 p.m. final at Mitchell and ensure their first playoff appearance since 1999.

Awaiting in the final is No. 1 Ridgewood, which beat No. 4 Mitchell 68-42 in the other semifinal thanks to a triple-double from star point guard Crystal Ayers, who had 22 points, 11 assists and 10 steals.

"The key word is hustle, because she made some plays that were just simply hustle plays," Ridgewood coach Greg Bollinger said. "They weren't going for the ball and she just stepped in front of them and went to the basket.

"We had some good efforts from a lot of people."

The Rams (23-3) bested the Mustangs (12-14) with 12 points on four treys from Jamie Surmin, Nina Bonaparte's 11 points and nine rebounds and Stephanie Carbone's 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The key to Land O'Lakes' win was finally shutting down Tarpon Springs' strong inside game. Katherine Chapman was held to six points and fouled out with four minutes left.

The Spongers' Erika Siauciunas had 20 points, but couldn't offset 14 from the Gators' Melissa White, 11 from April Slate and eight from Roshaunda Washington.

"The girls performed above and beyond tonight," coach Greg Robinson said. "It was a great game to be in."

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