By KEN SMITH
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001
Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman has made no secret of the fact his team has relied on defense to carry a sluggish offense this season.
Saturday night, the Pirates indeed made several key defensive stops in the fourth quarter against Countryside in the 5A, District 10 championship game, but their offense got in gear just enough to hold off a Cougars rally for a 57-54 victory.
Led by Devontae Royal's hot shooting, Boca Ciega took an 18-point lead early in the second half. The Cougars, however, refused to back down, and rallied to within six at the end of the third quarter.
Countryside took the lead 46-45 on a three-point play by Julian Mascoll with 5:15 left in the game. The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes, with the Pirates taking the lead for good at the 3-minute mark when Royal passed to a wide open Tommy Lampley, who layed it in.
The Pirates hit four foul shots in the last two minutes to keep the Cougars at bay. Boca Ciega also blocked three shots and took advantage of missed free throws by the Cougars in the fourth quarter.
"Countryside can shoot, you never have enough points against them," said Shuman. "We gave them too many easy baskets in the second half, but our defense stepped up just like it has done all year."
Countryside struggled offensively in the first half. Guard William Wightman, who scored 20 points against Pinellas Park in the semifinals, had just two first-half points. And 6-7 center Jeffrey Bronson, suffering the effects on being involved in an auto acident Friday, played limited minutes due to foul trouble.
Both teams move on to regional play Thursday, with Boca Ciega earning a home game against Palm Harbor University and Countryside playing at Land O'Lakes.