CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 8: Defense key to King's 47-40 victory over Wharton and district title.
By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003
TAMPA -- Wharton scored two points in the first quarter, and that was it.
"And it wasn't like we didn't have opportunities," coach Eddie Henderson said.
"We had plenty of opportunities. But the ball just wasn't going in."
And though the Wildcats scrapped and clawed as hard as they could the rest of the way, the ball, more often than not, continued bouncing around the rim and falling aside.
By game's end, King, which Henderson credited for many of his team's shooting woes, had defeated Wharton 47-40 to capture the district title.
"I told the girls we needed to jump on them early with some tough defense," Lions coach Eric Brooks said. "And holding them to two points in the first quarter was huge.
"Then I thought we went on and played physical the rest of the night."
This is not to say King (20-4) didn't struggle with its shooting as well, particularly during an early fourth-period stretch when Wharton (12-13) cut the gap to 45-40.
"I think maybe we were trying too hard, pressing too much in a big game," Brooks said.
"That was an atypical shooting night for us. We usually don't miss that many close-range shots."
King's Erin Clark made more than anybody for 15 points.
The victory made it three straight over Wharton (all at eight points or less), and it stopped the Wildcats' district title winning streak at two.
It also set up homecourt advantage in Thursday's first-round regional against Durant, which lost 58-51 to Haines City in its district final.
Wharton will travel to Haines City on Thursday, and Henderson said he hasn't given up hope.
"Yes this hurts, but I know there are a lot of teams around the state right now who wish they could be where we are right now," Henderson said. "We're still alive."