Forced to stay outside by a bigger, more physical foe, Wesley Chapel misfires early and often.
By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003
LAKELAND -- Wesley Chapel's second straight run to the Class 3A state tournament went no further than last season thanks to an uncharacteristic night of cold shooting.
The Wildcats (27-4) struggled mightily in the first half, forcing 3-pointers that mostly bounced off the rim and winding up 4-of-16 on long-range shots. In all, Wesley Chapel made just 5 of 31 shots from the field in the first half.
Although the Wildcats improved their shooting in the second half, they wound up making just 16 of 62 shots and again ended their season in the state semifinal.
"They say you can't win a basketball game in the first quarter, but you can lose it," Wesley Chapel coach Kent Mills said.
Wesley Chapel shot 50.3 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc this season. But then, those numbers did not come against the likes of Miami Monsignor Pace, which played the game at a relentless pace. The Spartans forced numerous turnovers, owned the paint and outhustled the Wildcats for loose balls.
"It was tough," senior forward David Simpson said. "They were a lot bigger, stronger, more physical."
Guard Tyrone Tomlin said there was a reason the Wildcats tried so many outside shots.
"In the middle, when you turned your head all of them were coming," he said.
Mills said that in his two seasons at Wesley Chapel, Tuesday's team shooting was the worst he has seen. It also marked the first time no Wildcat scored in double figures.
"Can't put it in the ocean again," said Mills, comparing the 21-point loss to last season's state semifinal 27-point loss to St. Augustine Nease.
"I give credit to Pace," Mills said. "I thought they played real good defense. Their press has such a wide wingspan that you've got to zip the ball."
Sorensen, the team's leading 3-point shooter, scored seven and was 1-of-10 from 3-point range. He said even as his shots kept clanking off the rim, he knew he couldn't stop trying.
"You just try to keep shooting," he said, "and try to keep your mind off the fact that the shots just wouldn't fall."
Said Mills: "I thought we had good looks as well, We went outside maybe a little bit more than we should have, and they covered the paint very well."