© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2001
LAKELAND -- Matt Conatus scored 18 points to lead four Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas players in double figures as the Raiders defeated Belleview 69-57 in the Class 5A championship Friday.
The Raiders (27-3) won their first state title while Belleview (29-6) was making its first championship game appearance.
Conatus was 7-of-9 from the field to pace the Raiders' balanced attack. Nate Salley added 17, Andrew Zidar 16 and Georgia Tech signee Ed Nelson 13.
Belleview closed to 21-19 at halftime, but Aquinas outscored Belleview 17-12 in the third quarter to pull away.
Steve Berg led Belleview with 22 while Jonathon Gibbons added 14.
Angel Gonzalez's two baskets and steal that set up another Melbourne Florida Air Academy scoring possession lifted the Falcons to a 56-51 victory over Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy.
Florida Air concluded a 31-0 season with its second championship in four years. Westminster (8-29 after forfeiting 28 regular-season games) now is 0-5 in state championship games, including two loses to Florida Air.
Westminster erased a 10-point deficit to take a 49-48 lead on Helgi Magnassen's layup with 1:46 remaining, but Gonzalez scored on the next two Falcon possessions for a 52-49 lead with 30 seconds left. Alvin Cruz, who led all scorers with 21, added three free throws in the final seconds.
Eugueni Sokolov added 12 points for the Falcons.
Jan Fikiel led Westminster with 15 while Magnassen added 12.
Brandon Sims' free throw with six seconds remaining gave Grand Ridge a 39-38 victory over Orlando Faith Christian.
The Indians (26-10) won their fifth state championship and first since 1989. Faith (27-10) was making its first state championship appearance in just its third year of varsity basketball.
Faith trailed 21-9 in the second quarter but came back to take a 36-35 lead on two Nathan Artt free throws with 2:38 remaining. It upped its lead to three on a pair of James Court free throws with 1:39 left.
Ronnie Paramore tied it at 38-38 with a three-pointer with 1:33 left.
Paramore, who scored 30 points in Grand Ridge's semifinal victory Wednesday over Bayshore Christian, led the Indians with 18 while Sims added 10.
Artt led all scorers with 21.
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