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By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001
LECANTO -- The instructions were simple.
Lecanto coach Chris Nichols told his team to make its foul shots. Twenty feet away, Citrus coach Jimmy Thomas told his team to take care of the basketball.
Both teams listened, but only one executed.
Lecanto made 7 of 8 foul shots in the final quarter, including two by Dalton Meyers with 4.2 seconds left, to pull out a 62-60 win over Citrus in the Class 4A, District 7 tournament.
The Hurricanes had time for a final shot, but Chris Vihrachoff had the ball swiped away at midcourt.
"The last time we played them, we got beat because we didn't make our free throws," Nichols said.
Lecanto (15-9) next faces top-seeded Dunnellon at 7:30 Friday night in one semifinal. Lake Weir (12-16), a 62-37 winner over Crystal River (1-22), plays second-seeded North Marion at 6.
Meyers, an unsung hero for most of the season, finished with 14 points, including four in the final minute. With 33 seconds left, he hit a 6-foot jumper to give the Panthers a 60-59 lead. After a free throw by Jamal Galloway tied the game at 60, Meyers was fouled and went to the line, where he hit both free throws.
"I just took two dribbles, did what I do at practice, and it went in," Meyers said.
Lecanto's Chris Jackson finished with a team-high 19 points. He and Meyers combined for 15 of Lecanto's 19 fourth-quarter points.
"We made a lot of big plays down the stretch," Nichols said. "We were able to get the ball where we wanted it."
After playing strong for more than three quarters, the Hurricanes were sloppy down the stretch. Ahead 50-43, they committed three turnovers in less than a minute, and Lecanto closed to within one. From there, the teams went back and forth.
Galloway, who scored a game-high 20 points, Joel Miller (13 points) and Vihrachoff (11) did their best to hang on, but Lecanto's pressure caused too many turnovers and negated a solid night of shooting by the Hurricanes.
"We didn't take care of the ball," Thomas said. "We did not do a good job in the last three minutes of doing what we needed to do."
In the opener, Lake Weir got 27 points from David Hampton and outscored Crystal River 13-5 in the second quarter to pull away. Ryan Rogers led the Pirates with 14 points.
"They switched to a zone," Crystal River coach Tony Stukes said. "And we stopped scoring."