CLASS 6A, DISTRICT 5: The Cowboys dig in late in the game to hold off Bloomingdale.
By JIM REESE
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003
TAMPA -- Gaither used a combination of man-to-man and zone defenses to control the tempo of the first and fourth quarters Friday to earn a 59-41 victory over Bloomingdale.
Despite the best efforts of Bulls forward Jeff Lebran, who had 10 first-half points, Bloomingdale was not able to overcome Gaither's aggressive defense as it led to a comfortable 28-15 Cowboy lead at the half.
The second half was a different story. In the third quarter, a 10-0 run by Bloomingdale cut the Gaither lead to 30-25 with a little under five minutes left. A driving lay-up by Gaither guard Antonio Russell stopped the run momentarily but the Bulls went on to complete another five-point run and tied the game at 32-32.
Gaither responded with seven straight points by senior guard Brandon Harrison to close out the third quarter.
Bloomingdale was not finished. Capped by a three-point field goal by Lebran, the Bulls ran off seven straight points to tie the game at 39-39 with 5:52 left. Gaither then called a timeout, re-grouped, and from that point to the game's final minute, ran off 16 straight points.
"We just didn't have enough in the tank to keep it going down the stretch," said Bloomingdale coach Josh Chapin. "But I loved the way our kids hung in there. They didn't quit all year and they didn't quit tonight."
Harrison, who shared Gaither high-scoring honors with Russell (19 points) commented, "when they caught us at 39, I told myself that I had to do whatever it would take to win this game. The timeout steadied us and we all went back to doing what we had done so well at the beginning."
Ryan Glass came off the Gaither bench to score 11 points and effectively defend inside to keep Bloomingdale from getting second chances.
"Ryan came up big for us tonight," said Gaither coach Dwayne Olinger.
The win puts Gaither in the final against Sarasota Riverview, a 51-44 winner over Venice, at Gaither tonight at 7:30.