By DON JENSEN
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001
TAMPA -- For Plant, it was a perfect way to enter this week's regional playoffs.
Get a solid test, overcome adversity and win a championship.
The Panthers achieved all three Saturday night, winning the Class 5A, District 11 title with a 51-44 victory over King at Chamberlain.
Plant scored the game's final seven points and overcame a nine-point, third-quarter deficit to win for the 24th time in 28 outings. The Panthers and Lions (15-9) now move on to the regional playoffs.
"I told the kids in a timeout that this was great for us right now and it's going to get us ready to go the rest of the way," Plant coach Mike Phillips said. "It was really nice to see us keep our composure, especially when we were down with about four minutes to go."
Plant, which won the Western Conference crown last week, trailed for most of the second half until Mike Williams took over.
Williams made a 5-footer in the lane with two minutes remaining to put Plant in front for good at 46-44.
And on King's next possession, Williams' steal led to a three-point play by the 6-foot-6 junior center with 41 seconds left to cap a 17-point game.
Williams was playing with a bandaged shooting hand, which was cut in the third quarter and forced him to miss the final three minutes of the quarter, when King took its biggest lead at 37-28.
That also was when King coach Jon Mackey went to a spread offense.
"One of our big guys (Gary Green) got in foul trouble, and we tried to shorten the game a little bit, thinking it would be in our favor," Mackey said. "We ran everything fine then fumbled the ball way. That gave (Plant) a little momentum going into the fourth quarter, and I also think we maybe ran out of gas."
Once King went into its delay game, the Lions were outscored 23-7 the rest of the way.
Plant's Cornelius Durham sparked the Panthers' rally by scoring eight of his 15 points in the final 11 minutes.
Two of Durham's three three-pointers keyed an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter that put Plant in good shape down the stretch.
Jason Williams led King with 17 points.