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LAND O'LAKES - The casual fan may have left Land O'Lakes believing he had witnessed another dominant performance Tuesday.
Veteran Gators coach Dave Puhalski didn't see it that way. He quickly grounded his players after an 87-47 win against Central in a key Class 5A, District 7 game.
Puhalski's concerns were valid Tuesday night as the Gators (14-3) often missed shots, then the second and third chances that followed. With district rivals Wesley Chapel and Ridgewood awaiting on back-to-back Fridays beginning this week, Puhalski was clearly concerned when considering the postseason.
"That was an ugly basketball game," Puhalski said. "For three quarters we didn't look like we belonged on the floor. I guess it's just the post-holiday blues."
Conversely, the Bears (4-14) left believing they could upset a team or two in the district tournament this month.
The Gators trailed twice in the first quarter then took the lead on one of Jerome Harrison's four 3-pointers. He finished with 24 points.
Land O'Lakes pushed it to double digits on a Harrison shot to start the second quarter, but Central guard Darryn Frazier helped keep the game within reach, also scoring 24.
The Gators blew it open in the fourth quarter after forcing three turnovers that resulted in transition dunks by Harrison, Mike Espinoza (seven points, four blocks) and Kevin Burnell (21 points) to go up 66-47.
The Gators outscored the Bears 21-0 in the final 5:42 with many of those points coming with reserve players for both teams.
"We were in striking distance," Hayes said. "Then, boom, boom, boom, three straight turnovers, three straight dunks and that's that."