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Short-handed Wildcats lose Time Warner tilt

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By ROBYN DISNEY

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 21, 2001


CLEARWATER -- Without star forward Jeff James, Wharton lost 66-50 to Jacksonville Wolfson, ranked fourth in Class 5A, in Thursday's first round of the Time Warner Invitational Tournament at Clearwater.

James, who averages 17.8 points per game, sat out for "personal reasons," according to Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli. Tonelli said there is a "50-50 chance" of James playing today against Dunedin at 4 p.m.

"Obviously (James) is a good player for us, offensively and defensively," Tonelli said. "But we have other guys that can step up and get the job done just as well. I was proud of the way the guys pulled together in his absence."

Two of those players were Maurice Johnson, who led the Wildcats (8-2) with 18 points, and Mike Burkett.

Burkett's two consecutive layups tied the game at 10, but Wolfson forward Matt Bringman nailed a 3-pointer to give the Wolfpack a 13-10 lead to end the first quarter.

Wolfson kept Wharton at bay until Johnson tied the game at 17 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the half. Johnson later gave Wharton a two-point lead with a layup and two free throws. But Wolfson's Will Holloman made four consecutive shots, including a 3-pointer, to give the Wolfpack a 31-24 halftime lead.

"He's (Holloman) one of the best guards we've faced," Tonelli said. "He's not only an excellent player, but he makes everyone on his team good.

"He took control of play in the first half and gave them control. I think that carried over from the first half to the second half."

Wolfson coach Bruce Rosebrook told his team in the locker room it needed to change the pace of the game.

"The changes that we made tonight at halftime was that we needed to do as much as we could to up the tempo of the game and to make it more of a fast-pace game," Rosebrook said. "So we threw a lot of different traps on them and we told our kids that they don't score often. But we just wanted to tire them out. We thought we were a better team in a more up-tempo game."

The Wolfpack (10-1) went on to dominate the second half, at one time leading by 23 points. "We just came out in the second half and didn't play well," Burkett said. "I don't know what was going on in the second half. We just weren't playing well. We weren't finishing and we were not doing a lot of things we should have."

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