By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2001
LECANTO -- It took awhile, but Central finally realized the best way to stop Lecanto forward Erin Bailey from scoring is to stop her from getting the ball.
The Bears held Bailey without a basket during the final four minutes and hung on for a 52-48 win.
Bailey, who scored 36 and 18 points, respectively, in her previous two games, finished with a game-high 28 points but had few scoring opportunities down the stretch.
"I thought what really helped us was the hustle and us putting pressure on their ball-handlers," Central coach Lori Lessley said.
Central (11-6 overall, 6-3 in Class 4A, District 7) was led by Stacey Waters, who hit two three-pointers and scored 20 points. Kerry Donegan added 13 points.
Bailey was the only player in double figures for Lecanto (6-12, 3-7).
Central led 41-40 after three quarters. At that point, Bailey already had 25 points. The Bears started the final quarter on a 7-1 run to lead by eight with 5:01 remaining. During the final frantic minutes, Central's offense went south, but its defensive pressure forced numerous turnovers and kept the ball out of Bailey's hands.
"They were effective at what they do," Lecanto coach Ron Allan said. "If we take care of it and are better in spurts, we could have won."
Lecanto started slow and did not score until 2:54 remained in the first quarter. At one point, Central led 8-1, but then Bailey got going.
She scored eight points in the first quarter and nine more in the second. With eight seconds left in the half, Bailey canned a three-pointer to pull Lecanto to within 26-25. She continued her torrid pace by scoring eight third-quarter points before being held to three in the final quarter. "Right now, she's hot," Allan said.
Waters was equally tough.
After scoring one basket in the first quarter, she scored seven points in the second quarter and seven more in the third. In a back-and-forth game, Waters' hot shooting kept Lecanto from gaining any real momentum.
"It was a tough game but a good mental win," Lessley said. "We never gave up. Every time they made a run, we would come back real well. I'm proud of the kids."