Heads-up plays, early lead sustain Sickles

By DOUG KATES Times Correspondent
Published February 8, 2007

CLEARWATER - Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia believes in "player management," when the athletes have as much decision-making responsibilities as the coaches.

On Wednesday night, the Gryphons used such strategy to defeat Gaither 42-40 and advance to Saturday's championship.

A key player management decision took place just 25 seconds into the second half. The Gryphons had the ball, but were about to lose possession in a scramble.

One of the Sickles players called timeout, the team maintained control, and when the Gryphons took the floor Jordan Davis hit a bucket and got the foul for a three-point play.

Garcia said the players have learned each possession is important and they are encouraged to call timeouts in situations where they are about to lose the ball. The Gryphons used that strategy three times in the game.

Also important was starting with a 12-0 lead. Sickles and St. Petersburg, the Gryphons' next opponent, both led from start to finish in their semifinals.

"You can't spot a good basketball team a 12-point lead," Gaither coach Dwayne Olinger said. "You can't spot any team 12 points at this point."

St. Petersburg defeated Countryside 40-24 after jumping to a 10-0 lead.

The Gryphons and Green Devils were 1-1 against each other during the regular season.