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Wesley Chapel hangs on to title

CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 10: The Wildcats trail in the third before pulling away to beat Pasco 73-59.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

DADE CITY -- After Friday's comeback win over Mulberry and after they attended former Pasco athlete Garion Pope's funeral Saturday morning, the Pirates faced Wesley Chapel for the district title.

The game featured nine lead changes before the Wildcats went on a 15-4 run to clinch a 73-59 victory.

"It's been an emotional week," Pasco coach Poncho Broner said.

Wesley Chapel, a state semifinalist last season, took another step toward returning to Lakeland with its second straight district title.

"Every one of them feels great, no doubt about it," Wildcats coach Kent Mills said.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence. Last year we played with a lot of belief, but maybe hoped to be confident."

Pasco's last lead, 38-37, came on a Deran Burns layup. But Marcus Stewart and Chase Bussey came off the bench late in the third quarter and each hit two free throws and David Simpson hit a basket to put the Wildcats ahead 43-38.

Wesley Chapel (24-3) never relinquished that lead.

Later, Pasco (13-14) closed in again on Johnny Peyton's 3-point play, but Greg Harrison answered with one of his own to put the Wildcats ahead 52-47.

"We look for runs," Mills said of his team's 15-4 spurt which gave it a 64-51 lead. "We get a run almost every game we've been in."

"They started getting some putbacks and we had some costly turnovers that they turned into points," Broner said.

Eric Sorensen had 20 points, including six 3-pointers, to lead three Wildcats in double figures. Simpson scored 12 and Zach Mills, the coach's son, 11.

Burns scored a game-high 27 with Peyton contributing 11 and Jimmy Lyman 10.

"He dominated the post," coach Mills said of Burns. "We were just trying to come back at him and Johnny Peyton."

The Wildcats' inside pressure finally got to Peyton, who fouled out with 3:58 left and Wesley Chapel leading 64-51.

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