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By FRANK PASTOR and ERIC MUSKATEVC
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2001
TAMPA -- Denver Broncos receiver Travis McGriff traveled to Tampa to participate in a children's clinic and attend the Super Bowl.
But first, the former Florida Gator took in a performance of another kind.
McGriff watched from the stands as his cousin, Plant's Tyler Azzarelli, put on a one-man show in the Panthers' 63-54 win over the Lions on Friday at King High.
Azzarelli scored a game-high 21 points, handed out 11 assists, made 4 steals and grabbed 3 rebounds as Plant bounced back from Tuesday's 68-41 loss to Chamberlain.
Not that the junior guard was showing off.
"I was just trying to play my game because I had a couple of bad games," Azzarelli said. "I was just trying to run the team and get us back on track."
Plant (15-3) used its pressure defense to generate transition baskets during a second quarter in which it outscored King 15-4 and took a 31-19 lead.
The Lions threatened in the third quarter, scoring 10 of their 17 points from the free-throw line and closing to 39-30 on Dustin Hunter's three-pointer with 3:50 left in the quarter. But Plant, led by Azzarelli's 11 second-half points, did not allow King (11-5) to get any closer.
"He's the best point guard in the county, if not one of the best point guards in the state," Plant coach Mike Phillips said of Azzarelli, who played with a broken left index finger. "He runs the team, simple as that."
Mike Williams had 11 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 6 steals and 5 blocked shots for Plant, which entered the game ranked fourth in the state in Class 5A.
Jason Williams scored 20 points for King. "We had some players step up, we played good defense, we made some spurts when we had to make them, and we opened the door to a lot of things down the road," Phillips said. -- FRANK PASTOR
CLEARWATER -- Consistently inconsistent might best describe Clearwater Central Catholic on Friday. In their 60-51 win over Class 3A, District 11 rival Tampa Catholic, the Marauders were up and down, eventually ending on a high. It wasn't exactly run-and-gun basketball, but what CCC did have were two double-digit runs. Although the Marauders appeared in control for much of the game, Tampa Catholic was never more than 12 points behind.
Tampa Catholic opened the game with nine consecutive points, leading 11-4 after the first quarter. But it wasn't until a minute was left in the second quarter that the Crusaders scored their 12th point. Spanning the first and second quarters, CCC unleashed an 18-0 run, with C.J. Schmidt and Marcus Edwards hitting two three-pointers to help give the Marauders a 20-15 halftime lead.
"We shared the ball very well tonight," CCC coach Bart Citro said. "We changed some things, some offensive structures which helped the tempo and increased the intensity and helped turn the ball over."
Leading by two a minute into the third quarter, CCC pumped out another run. Edwards hit his third three-pointer and was fouled on the play, sparking a 10-0 run. "Tampa Catholic is a very talented team," Citro said. "They came at us all night long, and it was pretty much a backcourt game."
Despite the run, the Crusaders trailed just 40-34 at the end of the third quarter. CCC controlled the ball and slowed down the tempo in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win despite Tampa Catholic's James Dennis, who hit two three-pointers among his 10 fourth-quarter points.
CCC freshman Chip Brinkman scored all eight of his points in the second half, as did teammate Chris Zumwalt.
Dennis finished with a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds. Edwards led CCC with 18 points while Schmidt added 12. -- ERIC MUSKATEVC