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Packers' rally hard to forget


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001

BRADENTON -- This was one for the off-season gatherings at the mall, for the long-distance phone calls after high school, for the class reunions down the road.

Remember the time we made the rally at Bradenton Southeast? When Southeast rattled off the first 10 points of the fourth quarter and we fell behind by six against the great Adrian McPherson in the cavernous, cacophonous Southeast gym, with the loudspeakers blaring the Seminoles' war chant and the crowd in a frenzy -- and we somehow came back to win?

Against all custom, Largo rallied to beat Southeast 75-71 in a Region 3 quarterfinal Thursday. With everything going against them and time winding down, the Packers did everything right. No. 6-ranked Largo's reward is a Tuesday trip to No. 3 Lakeland Kathleen (24-6) for the regional semifinal.

"We just all came together," Largo's Tory Holmes said. "We could feel the crowd and the atmosphere and it energized us to play harder, play better."

Largo (25-5) used a box-and-one on McPherson, who averages 30 points a game, to stymie Southeast (20-11) for the first three quarters. However, the Seminoles trimmed an 11-point deficit to four, 53-49, after three quarters and charged out in the fourth.

Largo coach Phil Price said he was asked before the game what his team's chances of winning were, and he said 40-60. After McPherson's free throws with 4:49 to go made it 59-53 Southeast (and 10-0 Seminoles in the fourth quarter), no one liked Largo's chances -- except the Packers players.

Alvin Gunter (22 points, 16 rebounds) quickly connected on two layups off assists from Mike O'Donnell, and Holmes drilled a jumper to tie it at 59 with 2:57 remaining.

A slashing drive by McPherson (27 points) put Southeast up two, but Billy McDade answered immediately with a three-pointer to put Largo up 62-61 with 2:18 remaining.

"Billy's three was the big key. It put us up a point and got everybody going again," Price said.

The Packers led 64-62 with 1:11 to go when another key play occurred. O'Donnell was fouled and knocked to the floor, and as he got up, Southeast's 6-foot-4, 270-pound Julius Wilson bumped him back to the ground. Wilson was called for a technical, complained, and earned another technical.

O'Donnell drained four of the six free throws and Largo made 11 of 14 free throws in the final 1:11 to hold on.

"That was a good game," Price said. "I'm sure it was a lot of fun for y'all to watch." -- PETE YOUNG

Lakewood wins a laugher

ST. PETERSBURG -- Lakewood made quick work of Bradenton Bayshore on Thursday, winning 109-75 in the Class 4A, Region 3 quarterfinals. The Spartans had six players in double figures and their full-court press in the first quarter smothered the Bruins en route to 19 steals and a quick 22-4 lead.

One of the highlights came moments later when Kevin Dorsey sent an alley-oop to Marcus Morrison, who finished the slam to put Lakewood up 24-6.

Bayshore (19-13) didn't have the speed or scoring ability to keep up with Lakewood as the Spartans led by 38 at halftime.

No. 2 Lakewood will host Lake Wales, the state's third-ranked team, at home Tuesday in the semifinals. With a win, the Spartans could meet Largo for a fourth time this season. Lakewood (26-2) won three of those games.

Morrison led all scorers with 26 points, and point guard Norris Anderson had 10 assists. Marcello Church added six steals and six points.

"We were really working on our teamwork, passing the ball instead of just taking the shot," Church said.

In the third period, Lakewood began to relax and let Bayshore get within 24. But after a steal by Church and an outlet pass, Anderson bounced the ball off the backboard to the trailing Morrison, who dunked it over a defender.

On the previous play, Anderson ran after a loose ball that went out of bounds and pinched the cheek of a baby in the stands as the crowd roared in laughter.

The party moves on to the next round.

"That's the way we've been playing all year," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said. "When we come out and start quick, we are a tough team to beat." -- ALEX LYNCH

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