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Gators cruise past Royal Knights

Land O'Lakes takes a big lead early on its way to defeating River Ridge 76-53.

By LINDA ROTHSTEIN and CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Defense made the difference as Land O'Lakes defeated River Ridge 76-53 Friday. River Ridge had trouble against the press early, often struggling to get the ball past halfcourt.

"We had our moments," River Ridge coach Bill Linderman said. "But starting off the game, they got up on us."

The Gators also used superior rebounding and took advantage of numerous River Ridge turnovers to hold off the Royal Knights.

"Turnovers and rebounding," Linderman said. "Going into the game, that's what I told them we had to do. We had to eliminate turnovers and rebound with them. We didn't do it."

Land O'Lakes came out strong, outscoring River Ridge 17-5 in the first six minutes. The Gators led 23-7 by the end of the first quarter.

River Ridge went to the perimeter in the second quarter to cut into the lead. Casey Johnson made a three-pointer from the right corner halfway through the second quarter to pull the Royal Knights to within nine. But Land O'Lakes kept up the pressure to lead 40-29 at halftime. "You've got to give River Ridge credit," Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said.

"Those guys really played hard and had a good defensive scheme. They shot the ball real well. They gave us some problems from the perimeter. They were smart with the ball. They took care of it and made some clutch shots."

The Gators eased the pressure in the second half but continued to hold off the Royal Knights on the boards. Land O'Lakes owned a 16-point lead, 56-40, entering the final quarter. Much of the fourth quarter was spent at the free throw line. River Ridge got into foul trouble early in the quarter as big men Johnson and Drew Thomas got their fourth fouls. Land O'Lakes made its shots when it needed to, extending its lead to 23.

Jeff Baisley led Land O'Lakes with 20 points while Ryan Van Blarcum had 18. Thomas led River Ridge with 23 points while Johnson added 12. -- LINDA ROTHSTEIN

Dunnellon blows out Citrus

INVERNESS -- If anyone at Citrus had any doubts about the abilities of Dunnellon's Stanley Jackson, they were erased in a hurry. It took all of four minutes for Jackson and his Tiger teammates to take control against the Hurricanes, marching to a 12-0 lead they only increased in a 74-49 win that clinched the top seed in the Class 4A, District 7 tournament.

"We wanted to come out and play well, and we wanted to turn it up defensively," Dunnellon coach Steve Powell said. "We came out man, and that sort of stunned them a little bit. We were able to get some open shots, and we shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter. And that seemed to jump things off for us."

As usual, Jackson was the catalyst for the Tigers (15-5 overall, 7-0 in 4A-7), scoring a game-high 34 points, including an early three-pointer (one of two for the game) that got Dunnellon off to a fast start. Jackson scored 17 points in the first half, including going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

The Hurricanes (9-10, 2-6) gained some momentum in the second quarter and trailed by 13 at the half. But Jackson and his teammates didn't let Citrus hang around long.

A Jackson three-pointer to start the second half sparked a 21-point third quarter that saw the Tigers expand their lead to 56-34.

Jackson's impact was not felt just on the scoreboard. Though the senior scored in just about every way, from three-pointers to layups to drives through the middle of the Citrus defense, he also contributed 6 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 4 steals. When Jackson wasn't scoring, his teammates were. Greg Bullock was the game's second-leading scorer with 16 points while Reggie Jones and Tim Columbo (two threes) contributed six apiece.

Rick Miller led Citrus with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

"They are a good ballclub," Citrus coach Jimmy Thomas said. "Stanley stepped up and played real well. They really came to play, and it's just a difference in them playing athletically and getting on us.

"Of course, we didn't shoot the ball well. We hustled and played about as hard as we could play." -- CAREY FREEMAN

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