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Wildcats' rally gets them past Gryphons

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


TAMPA -- The heat came from inside the huddle, where Wharton point guard Marcus Terry's mouth was moving a mile a minute.

Terry thought his teammates lacked intensity after they fell 10 points behind Sickles in the first quarter of their game. "We have to play the way we normally play," Terry told his teammates.

Wharton turned up the heat in the second quarter, outscoring Sickles 14-6 to take its first lead. Though the Gryphons made several runs in the second half, the Wildcats held on to win 49-42.

The win was Wharton's second over Sickles in a little more than a month. The Wildcats beat the Gryphons 53-42 on Dec. 11 at Sickles.

But the outcome might have been different had it not been for Terry's words. "As a team, we got together in a little huddle and decided we couldn't let that happen," Wharton guard Josh Rosado said.

Rosado scored a game-high 23 points, and Jeff James added 13. Sickles fell to 3-11 despite 15 points from Mike Stewart and 14 -- including four three-pointers -- from Chris Polakowski.

Rosado's numbers were crucial as James struggled through an uncharacteristically poor shooting night. The junior finished with just three field goals and made only 7 of 12 (58 percent) foul shots.

"If you see one person you know is one of your leading scorers (struggling), you know you have to step up, regardless," Rosado said.

Taking advantage of every shooting opportunity, the left-handed Rosado scored 16 points in the second half, including nine of Wharton's 11 in the third quarter.

"He's an excellent shooter," Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said. "I know that if he gets the opportunity to shoot the ball, he's as good a shooter as we have."

Rosado honed his shooting touch in the Bronx, where he played against local playground legends, and at Salesian High in New Rochelle, N.Y. His family moved to Tampa in the summer after his father retired as a New York City police detective.

"This is everything I hoped it would be," Rosado said.

Wharton (15-4) will need similar production from Rosado when it begins Class 5A, District 11 play Tuesday against King. District games at Chamberlain and Plant follow. None of the teams has more than Wharton's four losses.

"I told the guys after the game, Tuesday when we play King, it's going to go to a whole another level," Tonelli said.

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