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TAMPA - Robinson and Tampa Catholic entered the City of Tampa Championship title game as the tournament's top-scoring teams.
That's where the similarities ended Thursday.
Using its aggressive, up-tempo style of play, Robinson put four scorers in double digits. Tampa Catholic, meanwhile, struggled with its bread and butter - the 3-point shot. The result was a strong 86-73 win by Robinson.
"This was a super win for us," coach Steve Smith said. "We knew Tampa Catholic's game was to run and gun and shoot the 3s. We knew we had to attack on offense and keep the pressure on."
The Knights (9-3) did that from the outset, going on a 10-0 run in the opening quarter on their way to a 13-5 lead. As the Crusaders struggled trying to find their shots, Robinson had little trouble with theirs. The Knights continued to pound the ball inside while building their lead to as many as 16 points in the second quarter.
Tampa Catholic had made 27 3-pointers in the first two rounds of the tournament, but only mustered seven in the title game.
But Tampa Catholic (6-3) kept its composure and made a brief run early in the third, pulling within 44-41. Gerard Edwards scored seven of his 19 points in the fourth to help the Knights pull away. Robinson got 21 points from Mike Earls and 17 from Sheldon Cooley. Earls and Cooley were named to the all-tournament team and Edwards was selected MVP. TC was led by Matt Dziagwa's 17 points and all-tournament player Dickie deLama's 15.
Rematch again goes Wildcats' way
TAMPA - For three years, Brandon dominated the county basketball landscape. But with a pair of impressive victories against the Eagles, Wharton has assumed the position as county frontrunner.
The Wildcats surged to a 57-42 victory against Brandon in the Outback Invitational championship thanks to an overpowering fourth quarter. The Wildcats (9-2) clung to a two-point advantage at the start of the fourth, then outscored Brandon 17-4. On Nov. 28, Wharton defeated the Eagles 64-51 to snap their 62-game win streak against county teams. Now the question is how good the Wildcats can be against all-comers.
"What we want is to compete for 32 minutes," Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. "I think you saw that throughout the tournament."
Junior Shawn Vanzant was more succinct about his team's goals. "State," he said.
Vanzant, the only returning starter from last season's region semifinalists was a catalyst for the Wildcats. After going without a field goal in the first quarter, he rallied to finish with 20 points.
"I was confident in my team," said Vanzant, the tournament MVP who scored 45 in three games.
The Eagles (7-2) primarily played six players and committed 12 first-half fouls. Junior Devin Smith had eight points in the first half, but scored only two after being whistled for his third foul with 52.9 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Senior Korri Ennis led Brandon with 15 points.
In the consolation game, host Berkeley Prep (6-5) received two clutch plays from sophomore Luke Erickson to seal a 47-45 victory against Bloomingdale (5-5). First, he hit 1-of-2 free throws with 21.2 seconds to play, then took a charge on Bulls star Theo Smalling with 0.9 seconds left to clinch the win. Erickson also hit three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. Smalling topped all scorers with 18.