By FRANK PASTOR and SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001
LAKELAND -- Plant didn't just put itself in a hole. The Panthers dug a grave.
Plant fell behind by 12 points in the first four minutes and never recovered in a 55-39 loss to Belleview in the Class 5A semifinals Wednesday at The Lakeland Center.
Steve Berg scored a game-high 16 points, including three of his team's seven three-pointers, and Belleview held Plant to 27 percent shooting from the field as the Diamondback Rattlers advanced to the state championship game for the first time in school history.
Belleview (29-5) will play St. Thomas Aquinas (28-3) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday after the Raiders defeated Oak Ridge 67-58 in the other semifinal.
Plant (27-5), which took 38 years to return to the final four, needed less than four minutes to play its way out of the tournament.
While Michael Williams missed back-to-back shots from the baseline, Tyler Azzarelli misfired on a three-point attempt from the top of the key and Adam Bishop mishandled an Azzarelli pass, Belleview's John Arnold scored eight points, including a three-point shot and a conventional three-point play, to help the Rattlers to a 12-0 lead 3:20 into the game.
Azzarelli hit two free throws 13 seconds later, but Jonathan Gibbons and Berg added three-pointers to give Belleview an 18-7 lead it did not relinquish. -- FRANK PASTOR
LAKELAND -- They have won 297 games since 1990, have at least 17 victories a season since 1983, have made five final four appearances since 1990 and now at the end of 2001
There still is no state championship for Bayshore Christian.
This time, the killer was Grand Ridge, a Panhandle squad with no player taller than 6 feet 1, that beat Bayshore at their own running game 73-57 at the Lakeland Center.
The final score, however, didn't represent the game's tightness.
The lead changed seven times during the first three quarters and did not get larger than six points.
Both coaches said there was only one critical exchange, which came with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Bayshore's Kyle Knecht converted a driving three-point play. He then made steals on Grand Ridge's next two possessions and ended one with a two-handed dunk that put his team up 41-40.
Teammate Brandon Harrison followed with two foul shots to give Bayshore a 43-40 lead. "But then," Grand Ridge coach Greg Nable said, "we had some things go our way."
Grand Ridge's Desmond Sims hit back-to-back layups, and Bayshore's leading scorer, Joe Rawlins, picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench.
Grand Ridge got the ball back with 34 seconds left in the quarter, and after dribbling around and almost turning it over several times, Ronnie Paramore hit a falling-down, off-the-glass three-pointer at the buzzer with two defenders draped over him.
Grand Ridge entered the fourth quarter with a 47-43 lead, a lead it did not give up. -- SCOTT PURKS