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Port St. Joe steals another victory from Tampa Prep in the final four.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published March 2, 2007
LAKELAND - There is no way to measure the level of heartache, but it's probably safe to say Tampa Prep's Joe Fenlon hurt more than any coach in the state Thursday afternoon.
Not only did his team lose 66-63 in a Class 2A semifinal, it lost in overtime to Port St. Joe, which had beaten Fenlon's Terrapins the only times they had reached the final four (1997, '98 and '99).
Yet there were more thorns.
Perhaps most glaring were the two chances the Terrapins had to seal it, the first coming with the score tied at 56 and 15.9 seconds left in regulation.
Tampa Prep inbounded the ball and ran a play it had used "100 times this season," Fenlon said. A sloppy pass, however, led to a scramble and a Port St. Joe steal.
Two seconds later, after a steal of its own and Port St. Joe foul, Terrapin Jake Haslam stood on the foul line shooting two.
He missed both.
"I thought they were in," said Haslam, who was 4-for-4 on 3-point shots. "The shots felt good, but sometimes, you know, they just don't go in."
In overtime, Port St. Joe jumped up 60-56 off the furious style that fueled it throughout: two of its 30 steals, followed by running, finished with lay-ins.
Then, holding a 64-63 lead with 7.5 seconds remaining, Port St. Joe's Rashard Rouse stood on the foul line with two shots.
He made both.
"I still had hope," Fenlon said. "(Haslam) already went 4-for-4, and as long as he was 4-for-4 he might go 5-for-5."
Haslam never touched the ball again, and the game ended with 6-foot-6 forward Walter Perkins getting the ball slapped away as he went up for a 3-pointer.
"As I told my team, this game does not reflect on this season or on them," Fenlon said afterward. "Although they don't feel it now, they will be proud of what they've done this season (finishing 24-6)."
Fenlon said he felt good about the way his team attacked, unlike the three previous final fours when he thought his teams played too defensively.
Perhaps Perkins, who led all scorers with 24 points, added the best perspective after he severely sprained his ankle with 3:45 left in regulation and writhed on the floor for a few minutes.
Perkins limped back into the game less than a minute later.
"There was no way I was going to end my high school career sitting on the bench with a sprained ankle," Perkins said. "I told the trainer, 'Just tie up my shoe real tight and let's go.' "