CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 9: The Knights shake off a sluggish start and cruise to the district title.
By JIM REESE
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003
TAMPA -- Before Saturday night's district championship game against Freedom, Robinson coach Herman Valdes wondered which Knights team was going to show up.
"You never know," Valdes said. "Sometimes it's my fighting team and sometimes it's my not-so-fighting team."
When Freedom led 2-1 after the first four minutes, he must have thought it was the latter. But then the taller, more talented and tenacious Knights went on an 18-0 run and the game was all but over.
With its 72-43 win, Robinson will play Pasco, a 36-31 winner over Bartow, Thursday at home in the region quarterfinals.
Employing a smothering box-and-one defense, Robinson made excellent use of senior forward Tiffany Sawney who helped force 16 Freedom turnovers in the first half. It was Sawney's job to make sure Briana Nelson, Freedom's outstanding freshman, didn't have the kind of night she had Thursday when she led a comeback against Tampa Catholic.
"We knew we had to shut her down early and that's what our defense did," Knights assistant coach Don Pippin said.
As the lead climbed to 47-13 by halftime, Freedom's first-year team struggled to overcome its mistakes.
"We were just no match for Robinson tonight," Freedom coach Erinn Campbell said. "Our kids will learn from this experience. We have no seniors on our team and we'll be back. The girls never gave up."
Robinson's taller frontcourt outrebounded and outshot the Patriots, pulling away to its largest lead, 62-23, at the end of the third quarter. Sawney led all scorers with 20 and added six rebounds and four assists. Johnessa Griffin added 16 in the win and Mary Jones, coming off the bench, netted 10 points and eight rebounds.
Nelson had 13 in a losing cause for Freedom, as did teammate Brandie Davis.
"I felt badly for their team tonight," Valdes said. "They are young with no seniors but they are very well-coached. Coach Campbell is doing a good job with them."