tampabay.com

Tampa Prep pulls away late

The Terrapins take the lead for good late in the fourth quarter and hold on for the win.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published February 25, 2007


NAPLES - The key moment, the one that seemed to cut deepest in the heart of Naples Community School, came with 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining in Saturday's Class 2A region final.

That's when Tampa Prep's David Waller cut to the hoop, got a pass from Walter Perkins and dropped in a layup. The play ended a 2-minute Terrapin possession and gave them a five-point lead, their biggest to that point.

"After I made that shot you could see the Naples players' heads drop," Waller said. "They seemed more tired. They seemed like they went down and pressed more to make a shot of their own."

As the final 1:30 ticked away, the Terrapins kept it slow, hit their foul shots and went on to win 45-35, pushing them to 25-5 and into Thursday's state semifinals for the first time since 1999.

It was a huge victory, Tampa Prep coach Joe Fenlon said, for three reasons: He has enjoyed coaching this team perhaps more than any other in his 23 years; there is no player as gifted as former McDonald's All-American Casey Sanders on the team (Sanders was on the only three Tampa Prep teams to reach the state semifinals, 1997-99), and Fenlon's son, Conner, is a junior guard.

"I couldn't more proud to be a coach and a father tonight," Fenlon said. "All of this, right now, couldn't be much better."

Time and again, Naples, scrambling to make something happen, had tired-looking shots fall short toward the end.

"We shot terribly, but that had something to do with Tampa Prep's defense," Naples coach Bill Carufe said. "Then, when we did get good looks, we didn't make the shots."

Before the final 4 minutes, it was pretty much anybody's game. The lead often changed, and no team held more than a four-point lead. Waller led all scorers with 25 points.

Scott Purks can be reached at (813) 226-3353 or purks@sptimes.com.