Crusaders edge Avon Park
JIM TAYLORAVON PARK - The Avon Park Red Devils put up their highest point total of the season against the Tampa Catholic Crusaders on Tuesday, but it wasn't quite enough, as they fell in the final moments of the game 81-73.
Published: January 11, 2013
Published: January 11, 2013
Tampa Catholic came into the game firmly ranked as one of the state's top 50 basketball teams and the Red Devils ranked in the mid 400's. That did not faze the Avon Park team as they battled from start to end and nearly pulled off a stunning upset on their home court.
"We told them it was going to be a brawl," said Avon Park coach Marty O'Hora. "We told them to take care of the basketball, play hard and be more physical than they are and bump them off their spots we had a chance."
The Red Devils came out red hot. After falling behind 5-2 to start the game and predictions of a rout looked as though they were going to be on the money, the Red Devils went on a 10-point run to take a 12-5 lead half way through the first quarter.
The Crusaders answered with a five-point run to close the gap to 12-10 before Avon Park went back on the attack to outscore Tampa Catholic for the remainder of the quarter 8-3 and hold a 20-13 lead after one.
The Crusaders chipped away at Avon Park's advantage throughout the second quarter and were able to tie the score at 27 with 3:15 left in the half on a 3-point shot by Isiah Thomas.
Avon Park did not falte,r as Gus Owens scored the next six points for the Red Devils to keep the score tied at 33 and they went into the half with a one point lead, 36-35.
"Our defense works from the paint out," said O'Hora. "We are always going to give up a 3 any day over a letting their bigs getting inside. When their bigs get inside, they control foul trouble, get to the line, get us into foul trouble. We will always give up a 3 over a layup."
That worked in the first half, but in the third quarter, the Crusaders came out and set a blistering scoring pace. They drained five 3-points shot, four of which were made by Thomas, as they scored 26 points in the third quarter.
The problem for the Crusaders was that the Avon Park offense was also up to the challenge, as the Red Devils kept pace with them by scoring 24 points. Tampa Catholic took a one-point lead into the final eight minutes.
Avon Park took its final lead of the game on a 3-point shot by Recarus Burley with 5:30 left in the game to give the Red Devils a 65-64 lead.
O'Hora noted that they were finally making easy shots. That, combined with not turning the ball over, while being able to recognize uncontested layups and passing the ball earlier helped them to stay in the game.
"We made three effective passes that opened up the middle," O'Hora said. "In the end they wore us down a little and we got gassed."
Tampa Catholic finally broke the game open by going on a 13-1 run and held a commanding lead, 77-66 with 2:30 left in the game. The Red Devils started to chip away at the 11-point deficit, but ran out of time as the Crusaders held on to the victory, 81-73.
Tampa Catholic had five players who reached double digits, including Thomas who scored a game-high 25 points which included six 3-point shots. Chivarsky Corbett added 17 while three others scored 11.
Right behind Thomas in points scored was Avon Park's Owens, who led the Red Devils with 23 points. Burley added 16 while connected on four 3-point shots and Alfred Brown hit the double digit mark with 14 points for the game.
O'Hora was pleased with his team's performance.
"They take quick shots, they weren't going in to start and we got a little bit of a lead," he said. "They went ahead and we came back. I'll take our inside shots all day over their 3s and when we play them again, I doubt that they will be able to shoot that good again."
Avon Park travels to play district opponent DeSoto tonight. Despite being 7-10 on the season, the Red Devils are 5-0 in the district and look to remain perfect to capture the No. 1 seed for the district tournament.
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