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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Calvin Bars spent seven seasons coaching junior varsity boys basketball at Blake. It prepared him for every coaching possibility - except one.
But moments after his first practice, Bars felt at ease. And not because he took the reins of a successful program coming off a region final appearance.The main reason for his comfort: Chanele Patton.
"I can't say enough about Chanele Patton," Bars said. "She is just one of those players that brings it all - leadership, experience and basketball knowledge."
Patton, a 5-foot-9 senior forward, brings an outstanding game as well.
Averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds a game while leading the Yellow Jackets to a 22-4 record last year, Patton hasn't let up this season. She has raised her scoring average to 20 a game while helping Blake win eight of its first 11.
A tireless worker on the court, Patton has relied on her ability to maneuver under the basket to become one of the better players in the county. She has been among the top 10 scorers all season.
"I think I've improved since last year," Patton said. "I'm still working on being a leader, but those things kind of happen naturally. We're just staying together and staying positive as a team."
That mantra might have come out of necessity.
Stung by the graduation of key members from last season's region final squad, Blake suddenly found its program without Jade Givens and Deandra Davis, who transferred before the season started.
"(Patton) definitely helped with the coaching transition," said Bars, who took over after April Lindsey resigned last spring. "We had to change our whole style, and we are still adjusting, but from what everyone expected, I think we're doing just fine."
And Patton, along with fellow seniors Ashley Gary, Samantha James and Autumn Harris, are helping maintain Blake's high level of play.
Case in point: Patton scored 23 on Dec. 11, mainly in the paint, as Blake stomped district rival Middleton 55-30.
Now the Yellow Jackets find themselves in the middle of the district standings behind unbeaten Plant and along with solid Hillsborough and Jefferson teams. But jockeying for district tournament seeding might be a small hurdle compared to what Patton and her teammates have dealt with this season.
"Being with my teammates has been the best part of this season," Patton said. "The transition has been good, so we want to do as well as we did last year, even take the next step and go farther in the playoffs
"That's what we're working for."
1. Plant (11-0): Knee injury to senior Kaitlyn Ostroski a rare bump in so far stellar season.
2. Tampa Bay Tech (15-0): Senior guard Andrea Bridges is playing best of her career.
3. Sickles (12-1): Buzzer-beating loss to district rival St. Petersburg tough to swallow.
4. Freedom (9-3):Charlet Davis (17.3 ppg) leads the charge.
5. Hillsborough (10-3):Terriers face test at Tampa Catholic on Dec. 27.
6. Bloomingdale (7-3):Two losses came to No. 1 Plant and No. 2 TBT.
7. Holy Names (8-2): Suffered 17-point loss to Pinellas County power St. Petersburg Catholic.