tampabay.com

Chiefs, Falcons march into final

Coming together quickly

By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published December 28, 2006


TAMPA - Chamberlain coach Doug Aplin knew his Chiefs had talent. But he figured because the squad returned only two starters from last season's Class 5A state runnerup team, it would take this group time to jell.

Much to his surprise, it hasn't.

Following Wednesday's 66-54 win over Gaither in one semifinal of the Chamberlain Holiday Tournament, the Chiefs (11-1) have won 39 of their past 44 games.

They play Leto in today's 4 p.m. final.

"If somebody would have told me before the season that we'd start 11-1, I would have said, 'Let's skip to game 13' " Aplin said, smiling.

Against Gaither, Chamberlain wasn't perfect. But the Chiefs hit just enough shots, made enough key defensive stands and capitalized on a few crucial Gaither mistakes to fend off a feisty Cowboys squad that for most of the game wouldn't go away.

The difference in this game?

A 51-second span midway through the fourth quarter in which the Chiefs turned a two-point lead into an 11-point margin by hitting three 3-pointers. Two of them came from Mike Plummer; the third, which all but ended it, was produced by Dantavis Adkins with 3:51 left.

Chamberlain, behind the team-high 17 points of Carlos Figueroa, built a 22-10 lead in the opening half, but Gaither (6-4) scratched and clawed back. And a layup by Ashton Graham with 5:18 left drew the Cowboys to within two.

"The difference was that we gave up too many open shots to them," Gaither coach Dwayne Olinger said. "And on our end, we missed too many layups."

LETO 47, BLAKE 44: Leto advanced to the championship with a hard-fought win over Blake, which rallied from eight down in the final quarter to force a 44-all tie with 1:45 left on an Eric Hillsman 3-pointer. With time running out, the Falcons (9-3) went ahead 46-44 after a nifty move by Joelys Himely in the paint resulted in a layup. Blake had a chance to tie or take the lead, but called timeout with 2.4 seconds left while trying to inbound the ball. Problem was, it had none remaining and was assessed a technical.

"I didn't know (Blake was out of timeouts)," Leto coach Todd Price said. "But my assistants knew immediately."

Earlier in the quarter, Leto took a 42-34 lead on a Pedro Salgado 3-pointer at the 5:44 mark. But Blake (7-4) responded by scoring seven in the next 94 seconds.