Lecanto's defense forces Crystal River to cough up the ball 33 times in a 46-37 victory.
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published January 7, 2004
LECANTO - Lecanto learned Tuesday night that the best way to keep your opponent from scoring is to keep it from shooting.
Behind a ball-hawking defense, the Panthers forced 33 turnovers and overcame a fourth-quarter rally to hold off Citrus County rival Crystal River 46-37. Pirates guard Lacey Lyons had a game-high 25 points, but Lecanto ended the suspense by hitting 6-of-8 free throws in the final 29.6 seconds.
"We could do better on defense," said Lecanto sophomore forward Melissa Foraker, "but we did a pretty good job tonight."
Foraker, one of eight Panthers to score, finished with a team-high 12 points. By comparison, four Pirates scored, and Lyons was the only one with more than six.
"It's incredibly disappointing," Crystal River coach Scott Lyons said. "I thought for sure that we were the better team. ... We weren't getting shots. (The 33 turnovers) were 66 potential points we missed out on."
After falling behind by 10 early in the fourth quarter, Crystal River (9-5 overall, 4-3 in Class 4A, District 9) rallied to make it 37-33 with 1:14 left on two Lyons free throws. The Pirates later cut the gap to three on a Lyons layup after a steal with 43 seconds remaining.
But Tara Haddock (nine points) and Caroline Rodriguez (eight points) each made clutch free throws down the stretch for Lecanto (10-2, 6-1).
"We're all pumped up and excited," Foraker said. "Crystal River came out talking smack, but we just kept our cool."
The Pirates, behind seven quick points from Lyons, raced to a 7-2 lead in the opening four minutes, but Lecanto quickly recovered and tied it later in the first quarter thanks largely to end-to-end defensive pressure. Many of the turners Lecanto forced led to easy baskets, and the Panthers also hit several clutch jumpers.
"We played pretty good defense all night," Lecanto coach Ron Allan said.