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Chamberlain keeps the pressure on to beat Port St. Lucie 56-43.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 2, 2006
[Times photo: Willie J. Allen Jr.]
Chamberlain's Johnny Mack brings the ball down court during the high school boys basketball 5A State semifinals at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland on Wednesday.
LAKELAND - They haven't been ranked in the state's top 10 all season. Yet here the Chamberlain Chiefs are in the Class 5A state final, still looking like underdogs to many, except, that is, to themselves.
Now Port St. Lucie, 56-43 losers to the Chiefs in Wednesday's Class 5A semifinal at the Lakeland Center, believes.
"They can definitely beat whoever they play in (the final)," Port St. Lucie coach Kareem Rodriguez said.
"(Chamberlain's) quickness could cause troubles for just about anybody."
Friday, that could be Gainesville Eastside, which beat Winter Park Lake Howell 65-46 in the other semifinal.
Against Port St. Lucie, the Chiefs' man-to-man defense, which was as relentless in the backcourt as it was in the paint with Kylan Robinson, forced 23 turnovers and scoring droughts of four and five minutes.
Nonetheless, Port St. Lucie (21-10) tied it at 40 in the first minute of the fourth quarter. Six minutes later, however, Chamberlain led 56-42.
"That pressure," Rodriguez said, "can wear you down."
Adkins said he saw the frustration in the eyes of the man he guarded, Luther Thomas.
That's because, Thomas said, "(Chamberlain) is the quickest team I've ever seen. And they keep coming at you."
When the Chiefs got down 14-6 in the first quarter, for instance, it was James Devlin and Jonny Mack who made key steals and 3-pointers to give Chamberlain its first lead, 22-19. That spurt took only three minutes.
"They never, ever stop playing hard no matter what," Chamberlain coach Doug Aplin said. "I couldn't be more proud of everything they've accomplished."
That said, it might seem strange that after beating three tough squads in regions Clearwater, Boca Ciega and No.1-ranked Largo, and entering Wednesday 27-3, Chamberlain didn't get more respect earlier.
The five young men dressed in green warmups and sitting on the stage during the postgame interview, Devlin, Adkins, Robinson, Mack and Mo Lightburn, shrugged and grinned.
"We don't care," Adkins said. "We just don't."
A sentiment their coach seems to have instilled in them.
"I learned a long time ago that rankings don't mean all that much," Aplin said. "All I know is that we're (one of two teams left). And that's the only ranking that matters."
Devlin, who led all scorers with 19 points, said, "All that matters is that we're going to play our game.