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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.
The Rams sweep the district and Land O'Lakes on their way to back-to-back district championships.
By Izzy Gould, Times Staff Writer
Published February 10, 2008
NEW PORT RICHEY - Jerome Harrison's emotions are as visible as the tattoo on his left biceps.
When the Land O'Lakes star sticks a 3-pointer, he lets everyone know it. When he gets yanked from the game, he'll grimace and mouth a few words in disgust.
And when he couldn't sink the final shot in a 66-65 loss to Ridgewood in the district title game Saturday, he cried.
He wasn't alone.
"This has a lot of finality to it," Gators coach Dave Puhalski said. "We talked about seizing the moment. For 32 minutes, we did the best we could."
Lots of Gators showed tears, as did some of their fans. They brought a strong contingent, including some star alumni in Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford and Seattle Seahawks receiver Logan Payne. Even they weren't enough to help overcome the Rams (23-3), who won all three meetings and swept their district en route to back-to-back titles.
Land O'Lakes (21-6) was led by Kevin Burnell's team-high 23 points.
The Gators were up by seven with 6:28 left when the game began to unravel. Lukas Poderis, who had 30 points, made a 3-pointer off the glass that sparked the Rams' student section. Then came a three-point play by Rams guard Mike Lawrence (13 points), who was in the hospital until the early morning hours after suffering a "mild concussion" during Friday's semifinal.
But the game changed on a heads-up steal by Byronell Arline, who fed Alvin Satram (13 points) for a layup and a foul he converted to tie the game at 59 with 5:03 left.
"His play was huge," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "He's gone from being in the limelight as a football player to being a role player here. He's accepted it well and came up huge."
On the Rams' next possession, Arline grabbed a key rebound and drew a foul, converting a pair of free throws for a two-point lead. The Gators led once more on a three-point play by Charles Davis, but Poderis answered with a layup for a 63-62 lead with 2:44 left.
The lead grew to four, but Land O'Lakes scored the final three points, including a layup by Harrison (13 points) with 22 seconds left.
After a pair of missed Lawrence free throws, Harrison got a shot with 4.4 seconds left but missed. The Gators retained possession out of bounds with less than a second left.
Harrison got a tip off the in-bound pass off the rim, but it didn't go down as the buzzer sounded.