By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001
TAMPA -- Gaither scored only 34 points in its Class 6A, District 7 final, but that was fine with Cowboy coach Dwayne Olinger.
That's because Gaither's opponent, Bloomingdale, finished with 30.
"Heck no, I don't mind that score," Olinger said. "If that's the way it works out, then we've accomplished what we wanted."
The victory gave the Cowboys (18-9) their fourth district title in five seasons, and allowed them to host Thursday's quarterfinal against Sarasota Riverview. Bloomingdale (12-13) will travel to Bradenton Manatee for its quarterfinal.
Between now and then, Bloomingdale coach Jack Sutter said he hopes his team will find its spark.
"I really don't know what was wrong with us, but we just couldn't get anything going," Sutter said. "I thought we were ready to play, but we came out in that first half and didn't do much.
"But then it's something to be down just eight points at halftime after as bad as we played. I just really don't know."
By the half, Gaither led 17-9 in a game where neither team was really slowing it down.
Olinger said the low scoring was due to tenacious defense and the fact neither school was too familiar with the surroundings or the tighter rims at Sickles High, which hosted the tournament.
"I think you have to give both defenses credit," Olinger said. "But yeah, we also did miss a lot of little shots around the basket. If we hit even half of those shots, the score would've been a little different."
Bloomingdale battled back from a 15-5 first-half deficit to knot the score at 28 with 3 minutes remaining.
But Gaither responded with five unanswered points to seal the victory with less than a minute on the clock.
Marcus Russell led all scorers with 19 points and Kenny Huebner chipped in eight.
Dan Dierner led the Bulls with 11 points, including the basket that tied it up.
"All in all, I was pleased with our effort," Olinger said. "Bloomingdale is a big rival for us, and when it came down to it, we did the things we had to do to win.
"Our plan was to get the ball inside and get to the foul line, and we did both of things well tonight."