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War Eagles swarm Leopards

Titusville Astronaut returns to the final four after a thorough 60-30 defeat of Hernando.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


TITUSVILLE -- After Hernando's Class 4A, Region 2 final against second-ranked Titusville Astronaut, Leopards coach Rodney Byrd was asked to talk about what his team did well.

After pausing for a second, he answered, "We showed up."

After that, it was all downhill.

Hernando, which committed 29 turnovers and hit two first-half field goals, lost to the War Eagles 60-30 for a sour end to an otherwise solid season. Astronaut (31-1) will return to the 4A final four, where it lost in last season's championship game.

"We had too many turnovers," Byrd said. "We didn't handle the ball. We just booted it too much. That was the key to the game."

Hernando (23-4) struggled from the start, committing 13 first-quarter turnovers and often not even getting the ball past midcourt. After one quarter, the Leopards trailed 12-5 as all of its points came from junior forward Bernice Mosby.

No other Hernando player scored until 1:52 remained in the first half, and by then Astronaut had a comfortable 24-9 lead. The War Eagles, who extended the lead to 18 points at the half and 25 after three quarters, were never threatened.

"It feels great to win," Astronaut forward Jennifer Clarke said. "It's great to go to state two years in a row. We knew we had to play tough defense to win and we knew we had to rebound."

Astronaut's win was keyed by its full-court defensive pressure, which caused most of Hernando's turnovers.

"That's what we counted on being the difference and it was," Astronaut coach Gregg Hostetler said.

Mosby scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but had little support. No one else made more than one field goal for Hernando.

The Leopards got to the foul line 19 times, but missed 10 attempts.

"We didn't pass it enough," Byrd said. "We dribbled it too much."

On the other side of the court, Astronaut spread the wealth.

Ten Astronaut players scored, three in double figures. Katie Frakes and Diane Clarke scored 14 points each while Jennifer Clarke added 12.

"Instead of rotating (on defense), we'd just sit there," Byrd said. "We weren't watching the ball."

Astronaut finished with 28 field goals. Hernando had nine, five of which came in the fourth quarter when the Leopards scored 14 of their points as Astronaut played most of its reserves.

"We made some nice passes and hit good shots inside," Hostetler said.

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