CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 10: Down by 17 in the second half, Pasco shocks Mulberry with a stunning late reversal.
By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003
DADE CITY -- Top-seeded Wesley Chapel held off a determined defensive effort from No. 4 Bartow, 88-78 and No. 3 Pasco overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to upset No. 2 Mulberry 59-56.
Mulberry (17-5) opened the game with a 15-0 run, led by 16 at halftime and as much as 17 midway through the third quarter but succumbed as much to physical and cerebral fatigue as the Pirate comeback. A series of bizarre personal fouls sparked the Pasco run, which included a 27-10 fourth quarter. The emotional Pirates and sweat-soaked coach Willie Broner III did the rest.
"I always think we're going to do it," Broner said. "If I don't think we can, there's no way we're going to be able to come back."
The Pirates (13-13) tied the game 52-52 with two minutes, 19 seconds left when Pasco's Deran Burns (18 points) hit four straight foul shots after a Mulberry bench technical, and on the ensuing possession, Johnny Peyton (16 points) cut low to give the Pirates their first and permanent lead.
Many of the Pirates' fans had left -- presumably for the county fair next door -- at halftime and failed to see their team reach regional play for the first time in two seasons.
Broner said the Pirates' inconsistent season might have helped stabilize them while so far behind on Friday.
"I guess I'd say it was practice," he said. "We've been in that situation a lot this season."
Both finalists automatically advance to the region playoffs. The district championship will be tonight at 7 at Pasco High.
Wesley Chapel (25-3) struggled with Bartow (6-21) until the third quarter and took advantage when Bartow had to begin fouling to stop the clock in the final five minutes.
The Wildcats made 18 of 23 foul shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
Tyrone Tomlin and Eric Sorenson led Wesley Chapel with 16 points each.
Wesley Chapel hit six 3-pointers in the first half, but just one in the second as Bartow expanded its defense to address Sorenson and Travis LeMaster.
"They made us work," Wildcats coach Kent Mills said. "We didn't overlook them. We had opportunities to make runs but couldn't do it."