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Jaguars take first step to tournament title

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2001

TAMPA -- In 1998, when Craig Keeler coached his last game for Academy of the Holy Names, Danielle Darby was just an eighth-grader.

But she knew and respected him.

"He's the one who convinced me to come to school here," said Darby, now a senior.

Darby had attended Keeler's camp, and despite the fact she knew he wouldn't be her high school coach, she followed his advice and enrolled at AHN.

Darby now is the floor leader for the Jaguars, who are hosting the Memorial Christmas Tournament that bears the name of the last coach to lead a Hillsborough County team to a state title (AHN's Class 3A championship in 1996).

"This is our tournament," Darby said of the third annual tournament to honor Keeler, who died of an aneurysm in January 1999. "We want to win it for Coach Keeler, his wife and son."

AHN took a powerful step toward that, knocking off Hillsborough in the first round Wednesday 62-42. Leading the way was Darby, who burned the Terriers for a season-high 30 points.

AHN's second-round opponent will be Durant, which defeated Tampa Catholic in its opening game.

Blake, another of the 16-team tournament's three host schools (Alonso is the other) won its opening-round game, defeating Shorecrest 56-47.

Freshman Jasmine Williams, playing in her first varsity game, led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points.

Williams' effort included four consecutive baskets during a 10-0 second-half run that broke the game open.

St. Petersburg Catholic won the most exciting game of the first round, edging Plant 48-47.

After trailing for most of the game, the Panthers pulled ahead by three with a minute left. But the Barons put together a late run to take a one-point lead.

Plant had three shots at a victory during the final 10 seconds but couldn't make a shot.

SPC's second-round opponent will be Ridgewood, which defeated King 50-45.

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