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Gators rout Eagles, 74-51

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


LAND O'LAKES -- Here is the list of all the things Land O'Lakes coach Dave Puhalski said was wrong with some of his players prior to Thursday's big showdown with Class 5A, District 9 rival East Lake: one had sore shins, another a bad back, two were suffering from the flu and two others had just gotten over a case of strep throat.

Here is the list of what went wrong against the Eagles as a result: ummmm ... uhhh ... well ...

In what was either the greatest prep effort in history by a team overcoming its ailments or just a classic case of sandbagging as the Gators shot down East Lake in a hurry and then made sure it stayed down in a 74-51 rout.

And it wasn't even that close. The Eagles (8-10, 6-4) closed the game with a 9-2 spurt against the Gators' bench, and were inexplicably given a basket by the officials, who ruled that a shot had gone in when it clearly clanked badly off the backboard.

The Gators were so good, though, that the phantom basket made the usually intense Puhalski smile.

"I'm extremely happy," said Puhalski, whose team hadn't played in eight days. "We shot the ball pretty good, we defended well ... we handled their pressure and we made the extra passes."

The Gators (22-2, 9-0) outshot East Lake 53 to 39 percent and made 9 of 16 three-point attempts. The Eagles, once they fell behind early, tried to shoot themselves back into it from long range but made just 5 of 19. Of their 15 missed shots in the first half, 11 were from beyond the arc leading to a 38-20 halftime deficit.

"We knew we were better than that," said guard Ryan Van Blarcom, who scored a game-high 22 points. "We wanted to put a statement down and make them lose a little confidence. I think that was one of the best games we've played this year."

Limiting East Lake to just one shot and playing its typical hellacious defense, Land O'Lakes did not allow the Eagles to score consecutive baskets until 2:33 remained.

"We never made a run," East Lake coach Joe Bloznalis said. "They methodically beat us and outplayed us in every phase of the game."

Jeff Baisley followed Van Blarcom with 18 points and Brian Baisley scored 16.

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