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Preps

Stalwart defense carries Knights

CLASS 3A: Robinson builds a 17-point lead at the half and is never really threatened by Bartow.

By JIM REESE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2003


TAMPA -- Robinson coach Herman Valdes said after his team had beaten Bartow on Thursday 53-34, "basketball games always have pendulum swings. You know teams are going to make runs. You just hope your team makes more of them."

The Knights made two such runs, one at the start and one at the finish, both for 10 points, and they were enough to turn back the Yellow Jackets.

Bartow started out in a full-court press and the Knights broke it time and again in running to a 12-3 first-quarter lead. Led by senior Tiffany Sawney's eight points in the initial period, Robinson was so effective in moving the ball that Bartow discarded the press with two minutes left in the quarter.

Meanwhile, Robinson's smothering 2-1-2 zone defense held Bartow to only one field goal in the first quarter and just 11 points in the first half. So effective was Robinson's defense that Bartow made but two of its first 25 shots.

Trailing 28-11 at the half, Bartow made a run of its own in the third period cutting the 17-point lead to 12, but Robinson senior forward Kristina Estevez (13 points and 12 rebounds) scored three successive baskets to regain control.

"Our seniors are determined to leave a legacy of good team basketball here at Robinson and I was just happy to be able to contribute to that tonight," Estevez said.

Deomni Murray led Bartow with 10 points while Johnessa Griffin of Robinson led all scorers with 17.

"When you get this far and you are in the regionals, you must bring your "A' game," Bartow coach Reggie Polite said. "We didn't and they did. They played well and they deserve to move on."

Robinson will host Immokalee, a 60-30 winner over Sebring, on Tuesday.

Freedom's trip ends

DADE CITY -- Don't let Freedom's 65-30 playoff loss Thursday night obscure the larger accomplishment: The Patriots reached the playoffs in their first season.

Everyone thought they were crazy. But Freedom coach Erin Campbell and her players knew better. A first-year varsity team making the playoffs? What were they thinking?

The doubters, that is.

"It means a lot to the kids," Campbell said. "They didn't even know each other's names in the beginning. It was a goal early on that we would make it to the region quarterfinals.

"People thought we were crazy then, but they reached their goals."

But field goals were the problem Thursday. After making it to the playoffs, the Patriots were not quite ready to perform on this stage. Freedom (7-14) went scoreless in the first quarter as Pasco (19-6) took a 15-0 lead.

"We just froze," Campbell said. "We don't have a kid who's played varsity at all before this season so we didn't know what to expect. We came in tight and we couldn't hit a shot."

From there the Pirates kept the pressure up, turning a 21-point lead with 3:25 left in the third into a 32-point advantage with 5.1 seconds left. In the second half the Patriots nearly averaged two minutes a field goal.

Freedom was led by Briana Nelson's eight points. Tandra Faulkner and Charkia Harvey had six apiece. But the Patriots were just 3-of-15 at the foul line. Pasco will go to Fort Myers Bishop Verot (25-6) for Tuesday's semifinal.

-- JAMAL THALJI

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