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Girls basketball: Sharpshooter helps lead Sickles to final

Gryphons senior Katie MacKenzie hits four 3-pointers in a 50-34 win over Countryside.

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published February 2, 2008


TAMPA - The follow-through on her jump shot doesn't originate from her chest. Instead, Sickles senior Katie MacKenzie brings the ball from her right side and releases it near her right ear, as if she were casting a fishing rod.

Or in Friday's case, slaying an opponent.

"It was like a dagger," Countryside coach Andy Lieb said. "She just put a dagger in us."

Behind MacKenzie's four 3-pointers, each of which seemed to thwart a Cougars rally, the top-seeded Gryphons (23-2) pulled away for a 50-34 district semifinal triumph. The win sets up a rubber match against St. Petersburg (19-5) in the district final at 7 tonight at Alonso.

St. Petersburg and Sickles split their two regular-season matchups. The Green Devils collected more steals (13) than turnovers (12) in their 51-33 semifinal win against Mitchell.

The Mustangs played without coach Stephanie Koslin, who gave birth to her second son Friday morning. Interim Mitchell coach Jacob Tavo said Koslin and her newest dribbler were fine.

Establishing inside presence early behind senior center Julie Merritt (eight points), Countryside (13-12) led 12-11 before MacKenzie (18 points) responded with her first 3.

The Gryphons would never trail again. Countryside cut its deficit to 24-21 on Danielle Wright's layup, but MacKenzie answered with another long-range rally killer. She then helped seal things with consecutive 3s during a 9-0 run that gave the Gryphons a 37-27 lead.

"She's done that all year for us," Sickles coach Mark Key said. "In the shoot-around this afternoon, I watched the kid hit ... 12 in a row. And when she's coming off picks and getting the good passes, she's a very good shooter."