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Leopard comes roaring back

Shooting guard Jerrell Graham overcomes early foul trouble to score 25 points in Hernando's 48-43 win over Springstead.

By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 7, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Jerrell Graham doesn't come off the bench very often.

A second-year starter, his is one of the first names Hernando coach Jeff Laing pencils into his scorebook before each game.

But Graham put himself there Thursday, picking up two fouls in the first 21/2 minutes against visiting Springstead.

The rest helped.

Returning for the second quarter, Graham scored nine of his game-high 25 points to turn a tie game into an eight-point lead.

Hernando held off a late Springstead rally to win 48-43, snapping a two-game losing skid.

"We played kind of out of our team the last two games -- forcing things -- but we came together tonight," Graham said. "I got in a little bit of foul trouble -- little ticky-tacky fouls I was getting that kind of slowed the pace down -- but we picked it up and came back in the second quarter."

The win was important not just because it came against a county rival or was Hernando's first in three games.

It also forced the Leopards (2-2) to overcome some adversity.

Point guard Brian Hoogewind was elbowed in the face in Wednesday's practice and played with stitches in his mouth. Joel Steele, Hernando's first guard off the bench, sat out after being ejected from Tuesday's loss to Lecanto.

As if that wasn't enough, Jeremy Balogh -- the Leopards' second-leading scorer -- jammed two fingers against Lecanto, affecting his shooting.

"We were able to overcome that," Laing said. "I told the kids, "You've got to play good defense to overcome that. If they can't score on us, then it's all right.' "

Emory Strachan, a transfer from the Bahamas, scored a team-high 18 points and was a force on the boards for winless Springstead (0-3).

More important, coach Scott Bennett thinks he might have found a guard tandem after starting different combinations in each of the Eagles' games.

Junior Tadd Hale and senior Rob Wallace took better care of the ball than any of their predecessors and ran the offense to Bennett's liking. Wallace added 12 points for good measure.

"We're going in the right direction," Bennett said. "I knew this was going to be a process."

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