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Packers wrap up title with third-quarter run

CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 9: Palm Harbor is never able to get back into game after Largo's 14-4 surge.

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

PALM HARBOR -- The last time Mike O'Donnell went a whole game without making a 3-point shot, it was ... it was ... well?

"I don't even remember," he said.

He does now, after missing every one he took Saturday night. But it didn't matter because teammates Fred Marshall and Trevor Bing were able to hit a few, Quinton Gunter was a force inside, and O'Donnell, for all his 3-point trouble, was brilliant from just inside the arc as Largo beat Palm Harbor 65-53 for the title.

The Packers, the top seed last year before being upset in the district semifinals, will play host to St. Petersburg on Thursday in a region quarterfinal. PHU will travel to Boca Ciega.

In a three-minute span at the end of the third quarter, O'Donnell hit a pair of pull-up jumpers from the top of the key and then ducked under his defender to hit a leaner from almost the same spot to break open the tight game.

"We weren't hitting anything," said O'Donnell, who finished with 17 points. "When we start to get frustrated, usually it's my job to take over. I think anytime you can hit a few, it calms you down a little."

O'Donnell's surge gave him 10 points for the quarter, capped a 14-4 run and gave the Packers (24-6) a 43-38 lead heading into the final quarter.

Marshall hit a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 46-38, and after the Hurricanes (16-12) hit their own, Bing swished a 3 from the wing.

The Hurricanes could never get back in it. The Packer press forced some crucial turnovers, and until Jonathan Davis hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 left, PHU had managed just one fourth-quarter field goal.

Gunter made eight free throws in the final minutes to finish with 16 points. Marshall also scored 16, and Bing added 12.

The Hurricanes' Nick Francis preceded Largo's decisive third-quarter run by scoring eight in a 1:25 span, giving PHU a 34-29 lead.

Francis went on to score a game-high 23.

PHU's leading scorer this season, Garrett Tyler, had six points at halftime and started the second half with an alley-oop dunk, but he failed to score a basket in the final 15 minutes.

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