CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 9: Tampa Catholic wraps up its 11th playoff berth in the last 12 seasons.
By ERIC VICIAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003
TAMPA -- Robinson waited just a little too long to start shooting the lights out Friday night Tampa Catholic. Trailing the entire game by as many as 12 points, the second-seeded Knights went 6-for-12 from the field in the fourth quarter, including four of their five 2-pointers, to close within 46-42 with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left.
But because Robinson shot like the lights were out the first three quarters, including missing all 10 of its free throws, the third-seeded Crusaders led wire-to-wire and clinched a playoff appearance with a 51-45 win.
The victory moved Tampa Catholic into the post-season for the 11th time in coach Don Dziagwa's 12 seasons. The Crusaders will play for their eighth district title in that span tonight against host and top-seed Jesuit, which had no trouble dousing visiting Osceola, 50-22.
Tampa Catholic split the two regular-season games against Robinson, including a 10-point loss the last time the teams played Feb. 4. Dziagwa said he didn't change the game plan this time around, just the pre-game plan.
"Before every game, we were saying the Our Father (prayer)," he said. "Tonight, we said a Hail Mary."
The Knights (17-11) missed 11 of their final 12 shots in the first quarter as well as their first six shots of the second quarter, but went into the half trailing 22-16.
Tampa Catholic (12-16) wasn't shooting all that well either, but the difference was the Crusaders shot selection and crisp passing. Robinson missed a barrage of 3-pointers, but it failed to convert just as many shots from within a few feet of the basket.
Senior guard Anthony Messina led the Crusaders with 15 points.