[an error occurred while processing this directive]
By ERIC MUSKATEVC
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 19, 2000
CLEARWATER -- On the day of his commitment to play football for the University of South Florida, Clearwater Central Catholic guard Marcus Edwards stole the show, the ball (several times) and the game.
Edwards got his hands on three consecutive steals in the fourth quarter and converted them into wide-open layups, depleting Countryside's 11-point lead as the Marauders remained the county's only unbeaten team after a 57-54 win in the eighth annual Time Warner Invitational.
"What do you want me to say here," CCC coach Bart Citro said. "I'm shocked. Marcus hasn't even had his first full week of practice yet. He was the reason we turned it around tonight."
With the game seemingly under control with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Countryside held a seven-point lead and appeared poised to pull out a big win three days after losing its first game of the year.
But Edwards got a step on the Cougars' first pass after crossing half court and took it all the way to cut the deficit to five.
Countryside brought the ball back up court, and waiting once again was Edwards.
On his fourth steal of the night, Edwards got out in front of the Cougars' first pass and took it for another uncontested layup, pulling the Marauders within three.
"It's a compliment to his athletic ability and his commitment to play," Citro said. "I mean, did you see that? He gets after it."
Chris Zumwalt hit a free throw for CCC with 3:36 to go, but Countryside was still up three. After the Cougars' struggled to get off a good shot, the Marauders brought the ball down and swung passes until Edwards was open for a three-pointer. He didn't make the shot, but was fouled and hit 2 of 3 free throws to bring the Marauders within one at 53-52.
After an Anthony Cavalone foul shot put Countryside up by two, Edwards collected his final steal of the game, intercepting Countryside's first pass and going the distance to tie the game at 54 with 2:15 to play.
The Marauders did not let up the defensive pressure, and with one minute to go, Zumwalt grabbed his third steal of the game and went in for what would have been a game-winning, two-handed dunk. He missed. But guess who was there for the rebound?
Edwards hustled back for his eighth rebound of the game and was fouled on the putback.
He drained the second foul shot to give CCC its first lead of the night, 55-54.
"We just played pressure defense and we proved we can play any team and play good," said Edwards, who finished with a game-high 17 points.
The Cougars were led by Bronson who grabbed 11 boards and scored 15 points. Lonnie Alexander contributed 12 points in the losing effort.