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With 14 seconds remaining and the score tied in regulation Thursday, Tampa Prep's hottest outside shooter stepped to the free-throw line, bent his knees, delivered two textbook, snapped-wrist releases and drew nothing but irony.
By JOEY KNIGHT
Published March 2, 2007
LAKELAND - With 14 seconds remaining and the score tied in regulation Thursday, Tampa Prep's hottest outside shooter stepped to the free-throw line, bent his knees, delivered two textbook, snapped-wrist releases and drew nothing but irony.
"It's hard in that atmosphere," sophomore Jake Haslam said, "when you know if you make those two you probably have a good chance of making it to (the state finals)."
Who knows whether the Terrapins would have held on to defeat Port St. Joe had Haslam's two shots fallen. The Sharks, after all, had ample time to set up a shot of their own in the waning seconds.
What's certain is, exactly no one in the throng of Terrapin students, who had been excused from class at 9:45 a.m. to travel to the Lakeland Center, will put the blame for the Terps' 66-63 overtime defeat at Haslam's high-tops.
Without the bench play of him and senior Caleb Sieben, the Terps likely never would have been in position to pull out a win against their longtime state tourney nemesis from North Florida.
While 6-foot-6 senior Walter Perkins (24 points) displayed his typical interior dominance, Haslam and Sieben teamed to deliver arguably Tampa Prep's best bench effort of the year.
Each scored 12, with Sieben adding nine rebounds (including a game-high four offensive boards) and Haslam sinking all four of his 3-point tries. Fact: On Tampa Prep's final possession, coach Joe Fenlon wanted Haslam to get the ball.
"He already went 4-for-4," said Fenlon, whose club didn't get a shot off at the end. "And as long as he went 4-for-4, he might go 5-for-5."
Both players were huge in the second quarter, when the Terps erased a 10-point deficit by ending the quarter with a 22-8 run. Three of Haslam's 3s came during that 14-point swing, while Sieben had consecutive baskets, including one of his three putbacks.
"Jake is a shooter, and that's what Jake does," Fenlon said. "And Caleb is an athlete, and the plays Caleb made were very athletic plays. He got a lot of second-shot stickbacks, and that's what Caleb does."
Sieben attributed his effort to Port St. Joe's obsession with containing Perkins and 6-5 David Waller (13 rebounds), allowing him to frequently slide into the lane unnoticed. Haslam's explanation? Once his first shots fell, he gained confidence. Not to mention the newfound admiration of Sharks coach Derek Kurnitsky.
"We just didn't do a good job blocking (Sieben) out," Kurnitsky said. "And (Haslam) came off the bench and hit some big shots."