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Gryphons slow it down to edge Bulls in defensive battle

"It wasn't pretty,'' Jackie Metroka says about Sickles' 29-26 victory over Bloomingdale.

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


TAMPA -- Points were at a premium Saturday night during the Class 6A, District 7 championship game.

In fact, they were almost down right nonexistent. But when defending district champion Sickles needed them most, they came in the form of two Renea Phelps free throws as Sickles held off Bloomingdale 29-26.

The low-scoring thriller was turnabout for the run-and-gun Gryphons, who head into the regional tournament with home-court advantage and a 25-1 record.

Sickles will host Vencie in the first round of the state playoffs Thursday while Bloomingdale (16-8) will visit Sarasota Riverview. "This is not our game," Sickles coach Jackie Metroka said.

"We're not a patient team. We like to run, but we didn't get to do that."

That could be an understatement as the two teams combined for less than 60 points, nine free-throw attempts and 14 second-half points. The low score came courtesy of outstanding defense by both teams as well as an offensive strategy to slow the game down.

And that's exactly what happened after Tosha Ross' inside basket with 1:50 left in the third quarter extended Sickles' lead to 25-22.

For the next 5:50, the squads passed the ball, turned the ball over, held the ball and missed the few shots they actually took.

"We wanted to burn the clock," Metroka said, "and get them to play us man-to-man. But they're tough, and we couldn't draw them out."

The Gryphons, though, were still able to create just enough scoring opportunities during the game's final two minutes, when a Ross layup and Phelps' crucial free throws held up.

Phelps led all scorers with 11 points, including six that came from the line. Keri Nadar added seven for Sickles while Chandra Hargus led the Bulls with eight points.

"A win is a win," Metroka said. "It wasn't pretty. but we have home advantage. And that is what we really wanted."

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