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Leopards, Bears, Spongers win

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- The Class 4A, District 8 tournament began with Springstead scoring 26 points and losing by 10. It ended with Hernando scoring 28 -- in the final quarter -- and winning by 43.

Whether by defense or offense, three teams advanced to Friday's semifinals at Hernando's Imhoff Gymnasium.

Fifth-seeded Central was swept by the fourth-seeded Eagles (14-12) in the regular season but used a stingy defense to eliminate their county rivals 36-26.

Springstead's all-time leading scorer, Steve Ferguson, was held to six points, and after his basket with 7:13 remaining, Central allowed only one field goal in finishing the game on a 16-4 run.

For the second year in a row, the Bears (12-15) have a chance to knock off top-seeded Pasco, which had a first-round bye and plays in Friday's semifinals. Coach John Sedlack said he was pleased with the defensive effort, especially from senior Donnie Pelham.

"If I gave out game balls, I'd give it to Donnie Pelham," Sedlack said. "(Ferguson) had six points, and he's a very fine player. We knew we had to stop him, and Donnie played him for 32 minutes."

The upset trend nearly continued as a 3-23 Hudson team led third-seeded Tarpon Springs 59-57 with 3:16 to play. But the Spongers, aided by two intentional fouls, pulled away with 12 unanswered points for a 69-61 win.

"We're just so glad to get out of the first round," said Sponger coach Jerry Woodka, whose team had dropped seven of nine entering the tournament. "Hudson's been playing so great as of late. The kids are going to get a little positiveness out of this." The Spongers (12-8) have a semifinal date Friday with second-seeded Hernando, which put away seventh-seeded Zephyrhills (2-26) with a 28-5 second quarter for a 90-47 victory.

The Leopards (13-15) hit 10 three-pointers. Jeremy Balogh had four threes, which helped him match Jerrell Graham's team-high 19 points. Zephyrhills' Marquis Willis had 20 points but picked up a double-technical with 1:49 left for gestures and foul language.

"The score sums up our season," Bulldogs coach Tom O'Donnell said. "That was a very embarrassing moment at the end, but that's just frustration over a long season. My senior guard snapped, but that's not normally something he does. He's a very respectable kid. It's just 28 games of frustration."

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