By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 21, 2001
TAMPA -- A bounce, a steal, a tip-in, the smallest of things separated Wharton and Boca Ciega in Tuesday's Class 5A, Region 3 final.
In the waning minutes it was Boca Ciega sophomore Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen and senior Lauren Karfonta who made the big plays and key foul shots to lead their team to victory, 45-42, much to the relief of Bogie coach Nathaniel Southern.
"Whewee, I knew it was going to be close, but that's okay because I thought that's the way we needed to play," Southern said. "I think we need to keep games close for us to have a chance. We slowed it down and it worked out."
Southern admitted to anxious moments when the clock ticked under 3 minutes and Wharton's Ivana Pesic stole a ball off of Bogie's stalling offense.
Pesic drove the lane, dropped in a layup, was fouled and made the ensuing layup. The play cut the Pirates lead to 39-38.
"It was a stall but we were also looking for the open shot," Southern said. "I guess that backfired, but it didn't backfire on us too bad."
Roegiers-Jensen took the following possession, dribbled around three defenders, slid under the basket and dropped in a layup.
Karfonta then went to the free-throw line four consecutive times in the final 2 minutes, making 5-of-8, as Wharton struggled: Pesic fouled out and the Wildcats rimmed out a three-pointer and missed several from close range.
"Who knows why, but the shots just didn't fall for us tonight," Wharton coach Eddie Henderson said.
Wharton still ends with the best girls basketball season in its four-year school history at 20-8.
"Hey, we started the season 2-4 and we could have thrown in the towel at that point," Henderson said. "But we hung tough. We came back and had an outstanding season and have every reason to be proud."
Boca Ciega (17-11) now travels for Saturday's Region 3 final at Sarasota, which defeated East Lake 76-39 in its regional semifinal.
"We're playing off emotion right now," said Roegiers-Jensen, who finished with a team-high 16 points, including all 12 of her team's in the first quarter. "We'll do whatever it takes to win right now.
"If that means me scoring 50 or zero, I don't care. I just want to do whatever it takes to keep winning."