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Plant wins ugly to reach 5A-11 title game


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001

TAMPA -- Chamberlain's Otis White drove through the lane late in the Chiefs' semifinal game against Plant and pushed up a right-handed layup.

The ball rolled around the basket, drifting ever so temptingly below the rim for a brief second only to slurp back over the side and to the floor. It didn't matter. White was fouled on the play, but it seemed to sum up Chamberlain's night perfectly.

Plant took advantage of some poor Chief shooting and added an onslaught of offensive rebounding to defeat Chamberlain 52-37 to advance to Saturday's Class 5A, District 11 final at Chamberlain. The Chiefs will play King, 42-35 winners over Wharton.

This season, the Panthers (23-4) have beaten King (15-8) twice, but coach Mike Phillips said he isn't clearing space on his trophy case just yet.

"They've beaten Chamberlain twice this season, and they just knocked off a good Wharton team," Phillips said. "We're going to have to come to play."

That is something the Panthers didn't do Wednesday. But then again, neither did the Chiefs.

The teams bricked their way to a 10-2 Plant lead at the end of the first quarter, most of that thanks to back-to-back three-pointers by Tyler Azzarelli and Antonio Williamson. Several times, the Panthers missed putbacks and tip-ins, something Phillips attributed to a case of the nerves.

"I think they were real, real tight at the beginning of the game," Phillips said. "We just don't miss shot after shot like that. Thankfully, we can always rely on our defense."

That defense held Chamberlain (17-9) without a field goal for 9:46, spanning the third and fourth quarter as Plant outscored the Chiefs 21-4 during that time. That spurt turned a 22-21 Chamberlain lead into a 42-26 Plant edge.

"Our offense didn't score tonight, but our defense sure did," Phillips said.

The trip to the district final guarantees King a berth in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. The Lions were led by Gary Green's 17 points in beating Wharton for the second time in three tries this season.

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