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Reed powers Ridgewood

CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 8: The junior scores 29 points and pulls down 16 rebounds to lead the Rams to the title.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY -- They called him out. They insulted him. They said he was soft. Soft!

Andrew Reed brought his critics from Land O'Lakes back down to earth Saturday night. Hard.

The 6-foot-7 center avenged himself and completed Ridgewood's three-game sweep of Land O'Lakes in a 65-56 win for the school's first crown since 1997.

Solid. Productive. Dependable. That was the Reed who suited up for the Rams in the first 27 games of this season. But when he awoke Saturday, he was a different Andrew Reed.

The junior was aggressive on both ends. He was fearless with the ball in his hands; nasty when it wasn't. He hit free throws. He changed shots. He rebounded, blocked, scored and everything else to lead the Rams (26-2), ranked No. 4 in the Class 4A poll, to a home playoff game.

"I wanted revenge for the last game (against Land O'Lakes)," he said. "The last game I didn't really have a good game. They called me soft the last game. So I wanted to come in tonight and show them."

The line on Reed: 29 points, 16 rebounds, 15-of-20 from the line, five blocks, two assists and one district title.

"I was focused," he said. "I wanted to play this game since the beginning of the day. We wanted to show everyone we were for real."

Rams coach Gary Anders' 401st career win was much sweeter than Tuesday's No. 400 -- but no less intense.

"I think there's a lot of pressure to lead the (district race) from box to wire," he said. "We've stumbled twice this season, but when it really, really mattered, they came through."

The first quarter was a defensive chess match, but the Rams took an 11-9 lead thanks to Reed, who went 5-of-5 at the line to score seven in that quarter.

Ridgewood briefly gave it up, falling behind by four with 5:40 left in the half. But the Rams went into the half with a 31-23 advantage thanks to an 11-2 run that buried the Gators (15-11). Reed went 13-of-14 from the line in that first half, scoring 17.

"You want an interview? Andrew Reed," Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said. "He stepped it up to the next level tonight."

In the second half, Ridgewood guards Chris Halkitis and Brendon Geronimo came alive, finishing with 12 and nine, respectively. Halkitis had 11 assists, and Land O'Lakes was led by Logan Payne's 19 points and 10 from Drew Weatherford and Jonathan Wolaver. The Gators came within five points of the lead with 6:32 left in the fourth, but could not get any closer because of Reed's eight points in the last quarter.

Leesburg, which won the 4A-7 crown 46-32 over first-year East Ridge, will host Land O'Lakes in Thursday's region quarterfinal playoffs.

East Ridge will travel to Ridgewood.

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