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By JOHN C. COTEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Ridgewood came into the Class 5A, District 9 tournament hunting two things: a 20th victory and another meeting with top-seeded Land O'Lakes.
It got both, whipping River Ridge 67-46 and moving into the semifinals where the Gators await.
In Wednesday's other quarterfinal, Gulf put forth a gutsy effort and nearly upset Palm Harbor University before falling in double overtime 65-63. The Hurricanes will meet No. 2 seed East Lake in the other semifinal.
Both games will be played Friday.
The Bucs (14-14) almost made it there, but could not overcome the loss of leading scorer and rebounder Nate Goad, who fouled out at the end of regulation with the score tied at 48.
Despite Goad's absence and the fact that usually reliable point guard Joe Phillips had one point, Gulf had its opportunities to win.
It erased a 56-53 deficit in the first overtime with a 5-0 run, but with the score tied at 58, failed to convert two chances to win the game with a missed shot and a turnover.
Lytsz Diometre, who had a team-high 19 points, had two steals to start the second overtime and Nelson Rodriguez (16 points) scored a bucket to give Gulf a 60-58 lead.
With chances to pad its lead, Gulf missed two shots and the Hurricanes (15-13) scored five straight points in the final 52 seconds to seal the win.
Ridgewood (20-8) took all the drama out of the second game, wiping out an early River Ridge lead with an 18-3 run in the first quarter. Donny Lotz, the Rams' 6-foot-10 center, had nine points in the run and finished with a game-high 26 to go along with 15 rebounds and four blocks. River Ridge center and leading scorer Casey Johnson finished with just five as the Royal Knights (13-16) struggled with their shooting. They missed their first 17 shots of the third quarter as Ridgewood opened up a 51-23 lead, and shot just 30 percent for the game on 16 of 53 shooting.