tampabay.com

Knights, Crusaders roll into final

By ROD GIPSON
Published December 22, 2005


TAMPA - If semifinal play was supposed to trigger tighter games, no one told Robinson or Tampa Catholic.

Behind Tampa Catholic's barrage of outside shooting and Robinson's inside muscle, the squads cruised to victories in the second round of the City of Tampa Championship tournament.

Tampa Catholic hit 16 3-pointers en route to defeating defending champ Chamberlain 83-69. Robinson had nine players register points on its way to routing tournament host Tampa Prep 70-44. Tampa Catholic and Robinson square off in the title game tonight at 7:30.

After an opening quarter that proved close (15-12 Tampa Catholic), the Crusaders heated up from the outside. E.J. Ciaccio hit three of his seven 3-pointers in the second as the Crusaders pulled away from the Chiefs. But Ciaccio was far from Tampa Catholic's lone sharpshooter. Four others hit from the outside, including Scott Wallace and James Didden, who each had three 3-pointers, Dickie deLama (two) and Matt Dziagwa (one).

In the other semifinal, Robinson's offense proved too strong inside and its defense kept Tampa Prep flustered most of the game. The Knights opened the game with a 19-8 run and used a three-point play from Tommy Allen and an alley-oop dunk from Tyson Cole to stretch its lead to 30-15 midway through the second.

But Tampa Prep fought back as key baskets from David Waller and Walter Perkins helped the Terrapins tie it at 36 early in the second half. Then the Robinson defense took center stage, limiting Tampa Prep to just eight points the rest of way.

Sheldon Cooley led Robinson with 21 points while Gerard Edwards added 18 and Cole 12. Perkins led Tampa Prep with 17 points.

"We played a little bit better defensively," Robinson coach Steve Smith said. "But we still have to learn to play four quarters. We had a little bit of a letdown, and Tampa Prep put it to us and got back in the game."

Rivals get a rematch

TAMPA - The Outback Invitational championship will feature a marquee rematch. Brandon, undefeated since Wharton snapped its stunning 62-game win streak against county teams, will get another crack at the Wildcats at 7:30 tonight at Berkeley Prep.

Wharton (8-2) handed its district rivals their first loss against an in-county opponent in more than three years on Nov. 28 in Brandon. The Eagles are promising payback.

"We'll get them," senior Mike Brown said.

Host Berkeley Prep (5-5) nearly sneaked up on Brandon (7-1) Wednesday, taking an eight-point first-quarter edge before leading by two at the half. The key came from outstanding on-the-ball pressure from Brown. He continually harassed Buccaneer point guards as soon as they received the inbound pass and never let up.

The Eagles outscored the Bucs 23-11 in the third quarter thanks to a pair of steals by Brown that he converted into layups. Fellow senior Korri Ennis then scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth en route to the 78-55 win. Brown and Ennis tied for the team high in points.

Berkeley senior center Pat McLaughlin had a game-high 18 points, including eight in the first quarter.

Wharton used its sharp-shooting to knock off Bloomingdale 50-34. Shawn Vanzant and Anthony Gomez hit back-to-back 3s in the second to open an 18-12 lead and Wharton led by 10 at halftime. The Wildcats finished with seven 3s, led by three from Vanzant, who scored 19 last time against Brandon. Gomez paced the squad with 15 points.

- ANTHONY GAGLIANO, Times correspondent