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Pirates play poor at the worst time

CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 6: Second seed Crystal River suffers an ugly loss against Dunnellon, which will face Citrus in tonight's final.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2003

INVERNESS -- Tony Stukes was shocked.

After watching his team struggle in a 53-34 loss to Dunnellon in the district semifinals Friday night, the Crystal River coach had no explanation for the Pirates' untimely poor play.

"It's a tremendous disappointment," Stukes said. "We just didn't have the intensity tonight."

Crystal River (18-8), the second seed, was bidding for not only a trip to the final, but its first postseason berth since 1994. Instead, third-seeded Dunnellon (13-14) will play for the championship at 7:30 tonight against top seed Citrus, which beat Hernando 74-65.

The Pirates had won 14 of 15 games. But against Dunnellon they never led.

Crystal River made 12 of 41 shots from the field and committed 22 turnovers. The teams split during the regular season.

Chianta Smith led the Pirates with 11 points but made only 4 of 13 shots.

"They outhustled us in every aspect," Stukes said. "But Dunnellon played well. You've got to give them credit."

Tei Thomas led Dunnellon with 21. Marty Allen added 17.

Citrus (24-2) will play for its second straight district title.

The Hurricanes had a tougher battle than some might have expected. Citrus beat Hernando (10-19) by an average of 38.5 points in two regular-season wins, but the fifth-seeded Leopards were up to the challenge Friday.

"It's hard to tell a team that a team they've beaten is capable of beating you," Citrus coach Jimmy Thomas said. "They just don't believe you."

Citrus never trailed but never completely ran away.

The Hurricanes were led by Jamaal Galloway, who scored 25. Galloway opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers as Citrus built an early 19-7 lead.

By the half it was 42-26, but Hernando, led by Joel Hoogewind's 20 points, hung around in the second half and made a run in the fourth to cut the lead to six with 2:17 left.

Citrus responded with a 6-0 run to ice it.

"I told our kids the pressure was on them," Hernando coach Jeff Laing said. "They were the higher seed and they were 23-2. We just couldn't get over that hump."

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