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Hillsborough basketball extra

JIM REESE and DAVID NORRIE
Published January 14, 2005

TWICE AS NICE

Chamberlain's James Devlin had a rarity in the Chiefs' Class 5A, District 7 game this week against Gaither. Devlin, who hit five successful 3-pointers, was fouled on two of them, then converted the free throws. Four-point plays are rarely seen, yet the sharp-shooting lefty had two in one game.

DISTRICT PLAY HEATS UP

Tonight's Class 3A, District 9 game at Tampa Catholic (9-6) pits the Crusaders against Jesuit (8-5). Jesuit leads the series 49-43, but over the past 13 years, the teams have evenly split 28 games. Jesuit, however, has taken seven of the last eight. Both teams lost district matches this week - Jesuit fell in double overtime to St. Petersburg Catholic and Tampa Catholic was edged by Clearwater Central Catholic.

3A-9 teams in Hillsborough County are playing catch up behind St. Petersburg Catholic (12-2, 4-0) and Clearwater Central Catholic (4-6, 3-1). Jesuit (8-5, 2-2), Tampa Catholic (9-6, 2-2) and Robinson (8-7, 1-3) are jockeying for high seeds. In Class 5A, District 8, everyone is chasing Brandon. The Eagles are 4-0 in district play, followed by Middleton at 3-1; Plant and East Bay are both 1-3.

TOP FIVE

1. Brandon

2. Wharton

3. Sickles

4. Chamberlain

5. Blake

GIRLS

GRYPHONS ON A ROLL

Sickles entered Thursday night's game against Gaither 7-7 and riding a three-game win streak. Three in a row might not be that impressive for some teams, but the Gryphons won just four games in each of their past two seasons. Third-year coach Mark Key gets much of the credit for the turnaround. "I'd like to see us finish this season strong and continue to build for the future," Key said. "Our ultimate goal is to get with the elite teams in the county." With only one senior on the squad and seven underclassmen, his plan to build from the ground up is taking shape. The Gryphons' progress will be tested tonight as they host Freedom, which is among the top five teams in the county.

LIONS STILL KING ON DEFENSE

After his team's loss to Blake in the Keeler Memorial Christmas Tournament, King coach Eric Brooks praised the Yellow Jackets' defensive intensity. But his team has developed quite a habit of giving opposing offenses headaches, as the Lions proved with a stellar defensive performance in Wednesday night's win at Durant. Intense pressure applied by King's quick, athletic guards forced Durant into 15 second-half turnovers, turning a two-point halftime lead into a 22-point victory. "Our defense is the catalyst for our offense," Brooks said. "I've always been a really defensive-minded coach who preached that you need to get stops to win games. But this year my team is so fast it's taken that philosophy to the next level."

TOP FIVE

1. Freedom

2. Armwood

3. Plant

4. Wharton

5. Blake

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