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Sickles girls take championship

The basketball team was a wild-card entry in the four-team Western Conference tournament.

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


CITRUS PARK -- The Sickles girls basketball team completed the regular season 23-1, but a series of events led the Gryphons to enter the Western Conference tournament this month as a wild-card team.

In turning a two-point halftime lead into a 63-46 win in the conference title game, Sickles grabbed its first conference championship and avenged its lone loss of the year. The Gryphons' lone regular season loss was to district rival Gaither, giving the Cowboys a better conference mark and dropping the Gryphons to a wild-card entry in the four-team conference event. In the wild-card game, Sickles endured a double-overtime marathon, winning the contest but losing starting guard Amri Diaz to an ankle injury. That set up Feb. 2's game against Gaither -- the same team that beat Sickles on Jan. 18. When asked if it was better to win the conference or beat Gaither, coach Jackie Metroka smiled and said "both ... It's nice to win big in a Western Conference championship game, especially against Gaither."

FOOTBALL: With the Lydell Ross saga finally settled (he signed with Ohio State), six athletes in schools north of Tampa signed football scholarships during National Signing Day on Wednesday. Ross' Gaither teammates defensive end Kenny Huebner (USF) and defensive back Marcus Russell (Fordham) landed scholarships. Wharton's defensive back Dwight Ellick signed with Notre Dame, and linebacker Terrance Royal will attend USF. Former Leto star Ricky Sailor, a 1999 graduate, signed with Texas Tech after spending two seasons at Butte Community College in Oroville, Calif. Also, Gaither offensive lineman Cesar Paz will walk on at USF with an opportunity to compete for a starting job and scholarship by the season.

TRACK & FIELD: The season begins Tuesday with the North of Tampa schools set to figure prominently in district and conference races. Leto, which was a point away from winning the Class 3A state title last season, returns loaded with athletes. Terrance McKinnon and Jon Shepherd will compete in several events for the Falcons but are dominant in the hurdles. Wharton's Stuart Carrico is a solid 800-meters runner and Ellick will run the 100 meters and 40-yard dash. For Sickles, Dan Doromal will run the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.

BOYS BASKETBALL: District tournaments tip off beginning Tuesday for Hillsborough squads. Sickles will host the Class 6A-7 tournament featuring Gaither, Hillsborough, Durant and Bloomingdale. Chamberlain will host the 5A-11 with Wharton, King and Plant. Leto will compete in the 4A-10 event at Tampa Bay Tech, which also features Jefferson, Jesuit, Armwood, Robinson and Blake.

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