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Pride wounded, Wildcats whip Rams

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003

WESLEY CHAPEL -- Don't make the Wildcats angry. You wouldn't like them when they're angry.

Devastated by Friday's loss at Mitchell that ruined a shot at the Pasco County title, Wesley Chapel took its frustrations out on Ridgewood on Saturday night.

Wesley Chapel rolled Ridgewood 95-73, as the No. 3 team in Class 3A handed the No. 4 team in 4A its worst loss of the season.

It was a highly anticipated re-match between the Wildcats (22-3) and the Rams (24-2) -- until the Mustangs decided otherwise. Mitchell's 82-79 defeat of Wesley Chapel the night before rendered Saturday's game moot by handing the Sunshine Athletic Conference title to Ridgewood.

Or did it? The Wildcats, who had never beaten the Rams until Saturday, still had something to play for.

"What I wrote on the board was, 'It's pride night,' " Wesley Chapel coach Kent Mills said. "Get your pride back.

"That's the kind of intense basketball they've put on the floor 16, 17 times this year. I don't think they were mad, I think they're trying to prove that they're real. If there are any doubters, we're going to prove we're real."

Reality hit Ridgewood in the first quarter as Wesley Chapel ran out to a 27-11 lead. The damage already done, the Rams played catch-up the rest of the way, led by Chris Halkitis' 28 points and four 3-pointers. His last trey cut the lead to ll with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.

Wesley Chapel pulled away from there, running away with the fourth quarter 24-16. The Wildcats' perimeter game, which has faltered against the Rams in previous meetings, came alive Saturday. David Simpson led with 23 points inside, while Sorensen had 20 and three treys. Tyrone Tomlin had 15 points and Zach Mills and Marcus Stewart 10 each.

Ridgewood coach Gary Anders was already wary about Saturday's game after his Rams took the first meeting at their place. Then came Friday.

"I was concerned with how the kids would react knowing they had clinched the conference outright," Anders said. "I had no idea how they would react to the loss last night, and credit coach Mills and (his) kids, that's the most pumped up I've ever seen them in the eight times we've played. They acted like this game meant everything.

"It was like it was the seventh game of the World Series and they certainly played that way."

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