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Okpaleke lifts TBT past Armwood

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 9: The Titans junior scores 24 points in a 59-43 victory against the Hawks.

By JOEL POILEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003


TAMPA -- As Chichi Okpaleke goes, so goes Tampa Bay Tech. Okpaleke was on her game Saturday, working the inside to perfection and leading the top-seeded Titans to a 59-43 victory against Armwood for the Class 4A, District 9 title.

A junior, Okpaleke scored 24 points, many on strong moves to the basket and along the baseline.

Tampa Bay Tech (22-3) will host a region quarterfinal against the loser of Saturday's late 4A-10 championship between Lake Gibson and Winter Haven at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Armwood (20-9) travels to the winner of that game. "I was really proud of how Chichi picked up her game and raised the level of the whole team," Titans coach Heather Glezen said. "She helps us establish an inside presence.

"Then that opens up things for our 3-point shooters."

Okpaleke's long arms enable her to play much taller than her 5-foot-9 frame, and she also grabbed 12 rebounds to lead a 34-24 Tampa Bay Tech advantage on the boards.

Applying fullcourt pressure, the Titans sprinted to an 18-11 first-quarter lead led by Okpaleke's 10 points.

With sophomore guard Ashley Armwood leading the charge with 11 of her 16 points, the Hawks charged back to tie the score at 26 at halftime.

Tampa Bay Tech appeared tired during the rally.

But Glezen said she was trying a different offensive set that took the Titans a while to adjust to.

The Titans went back to their pressing, running style and blew open the game by outscoring the Hawks 21-6 during the third quarter. Naomi Barnes and Teyaqua Gunn added 10 points for Tampa Bay Tech, and Rebecca Barnes scored nine. Senior Muneca Oliver tried to rally Armwood by scoring 12 of her 16 points during the second half, but the Hawks got no closer than 15 points.

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