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Preps

Wildwood shuts down Hernando

By Times Staff Writers
Published February 22, 2004

BROOKSVILLE - There were no late-game heroics for Hernando on Saturday.

One night after rallying from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat Pasco in overtime, the Leopards looked lackluster in a 41-34 loss to Wildwood in the Class 3A, District 6 final.

Wildwood used a stagger zone to move junior guard Jeff Brown from the point to the wing, limiting his touches, and changed defenses on every possession. The result was only two more Leopards points than the 32 Brown scored in Friday's 74-72 victory over Pasco.

"We've been striving for defense all week," Wildwood's Demetrius Knight said, "holding people in a halfcourt game, not letting them get out and run."

By beating Hernando for the second time in three games this season, Wildwood (12-14) won its first district title in four seasons and earned homecourt for Thursday's region quarterfinal against Ocala West Port.

Hernando (16-11) travels to District 5 champion Newberry.

"Maybe some of it you attribute to such an emotional win against Pasco and then coming out flat and getting behind the eight ball," said Hernando coach Jeff Laing, whose squad fell behind 11-4 in the first quarter.

"But more of it may have to do with character and heart. You can't be frontrunners. When things are going good, everything's great. You've got to suck it up there when things are going bad, and I don't think we did that."

Wildwood led for much of the game and outscored Hernando 11-3 in the final two minutes to pull away. Knight's 3-point play after Danny Harris' steal with 1:34 left gave the Wildcats a 33-31 lead. And Ronnie Bailey's putback of his missed free throw with 30 seconds left completed a three-point possession that made it 38-31.

Brown finished with eight points, including one field goal. Kyle Swanston's 12 points led the Leopards.

- FRANK PASTOR

A-5: Seven Rivers rally forces OT, but St John Lutheran wins

CITRUS SPRINGS - The well-played game isn't always the most fun to watch.

Case in point: In Saturday's Class A, District 5 final at Citrus Springs Middle School, the winning squad missed 19 free throws and the losing team shot well below 40 percent from the field.

The result?

Just your ordinary, every day barnburner.

In a dramatic finish to an otherwise unspectacular game, second-seeded Ocala St. John Lutheran overcame a miserable night at the line to defeat No.1 Seven Rivers Christian 52-48 in overtime.

"How does it feel to lose the district championship?" Seven Rivers point guard Richard Capra said. "Words can't describe the pain I'm going through right now."

St. John Lutheran (11-15) led by six with 2:06 left in regulation, but the Warriors (15-10) rallied thanks to an incredible, unlikely finish. Cory Ludwick banked in a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to cut the gap to two (42-40), and the Saints went 1-of-8 from the line - with six straight misses - in the final 1:17 to keep Seven Rivers alive.

Ludwick had a 3-pointer go in and out, which many figured would end it. But with 4.9 seconds on the clock, St. John Lutheran missed two free throws and was called for a foul on the rebound. The Warriors forced OT by hitting one free throw, then getting a short bank shot from Adam Peshek as time expired, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

But in OT, St. John Lutheran took an early lead and never trailed again. The Warriors had chances, but failed to convert several scoring opportunities.

"We just didn't execute," Seven Rivers coach Jim Ervin said. "We're struggling emotionally. Hopefully we can bounce back."

Chris LaRue led St. John Lutheran with 16 points. Ludwick and Peshek had 14 points each for the Warriors.

- KEITH NIEBUHR

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]


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