Boys 5A7 hoops: Gators, Rams dominate to reach final

Land O'Lakes thumps Wesley Chapel, then Ridgewood has little trouble with Central.

By Izzy Gould
Published February 9, 2008

NEW PORT RICHEY - After the basketballs had stopped bouncing and fans began to head home, the real excitement started.

The Class 5A, District 7 semifinals were settled quickly Friday, with Land O'Lakes defeating Wesley Chapel in the early game 71-49, then Ridgewood holding court in a 75-47 win against Central. That sets up tonight's final between the Gators and Rams - their third meeting.

In the last meeting, Rams coach Gary Anders earned his 500th win with a 70-66 overtime victory at Land O'Lakes. And in the first game, Rams guard Mike Lawrence made a layup with seven seconds left for a 70-69 victory at Ridgewood.

Lawrence two points was a nonfactor Friday against Central after he was hit in the head and sent to the floor in the first quarter. After several moments, two Ridgewood coaches carried Lawrence to the bench, where he remained.

"He'll be all right," Anders said. "We'll put a Band-Aid on his forehead."

The Gators (21-5) watched enough of the second game to reacquaint themselves with the Rams (22-3) as they took down the Bears (7-20). And if Land O'Lakes runs the floor the way it did against Wesley Chapel (19-7), then the final should live up to the hype. The Gators were led by Jerome Harrison (25 points), Ely Payne (11 points) and Mike Espinoza (10 points).

Wesley Chapel was missing a key weapon in senior Ladarius Manora, who Wildcats coach Doug Greseth said was benched for "disciplinary reasons." Wildcats senior Greg Jenkins carried the slack, scoring 25.

"It's a difference, but the fact of the matter is we didn't get back on defense, and we didn't stop the fastbreak," Greseth said. "They made a big run on us. It just got out of hand in the first half."

The Rams got plenty inside from 6-foot-7 junior Lukas Poderis (26 points), while Bryan Jones (12 points) and Byronell Arline (10 points) added some crucial offense.

Izzy Gould can be reached at izzygould@gmail.com or (727)580-5315.