TAMPA — With the rest of Class 7A, District 9 already in the loss column, the battle between unbeatens Wiregrass Ranch and Chamberlain took on added significance.
The winner would grab the top spot in the district standings along with the inside track for the end-of-the-season district tournament’s No. 1 seed.
Chamberlain defeated Wiregrass Ranch in last season’s final to win the district title. The Chiefs proved they are primed to repeat again this season after a convincing 73-49 victory over the Bulls on Friday.
“As long as we continue to do what we’re supposed to do,” Chamberlain coach Chris Snyder said, “we control our own destiny.”
It took Chamberlain (5-0, 3-0) a couple trips up and down the court to settle into the game. The Chiefs spotted Wiregrass Ranch (4-1, 1-1) a 14-7 lead before going on an 11-0 run in the first quarter to take control. Chamberlain used another 11-0 spurt in the second quarter to open up a 19-point lead at halftime.
“I think we finally got our legs under us a little bit,” Snyder said. “We played a little more unselfish than we had and made the extra pass that got us a bunch of layups.”
Still trailing by 19 midway through the third quarter, Wiregrass Ranch scored the next 10 points to cut the Chiefs’ lead to single digits. The Bulls were within seven after Chris Parra made two free throws to close out the third quarter.
Chamberlain, however, suffocated the Bulls down the stretch, surrendering just a single point in the final quarter. The Chiefs outscored the Bulls 18-1 in the fourth.
“We feel like in our gym, nobody should beat us,” said Chamberlain’s Reggie Hart, who referenced a local high school basketball poll that ranked the Bulls No. 10 in the bay area but failed to include the Chiefs as added motivation. “Rankings don’t mean anything.”
Hart was Chamberlain’s go-to player, scoring 18 in the first half to finish with a game-high 26. Ja’Marcus Russ added 13 points and made several key plays down the stretch to keep the Bulls from cutting any further into the Chiefs’ lead in the fourth, and Rashawn Fredericks also reached double figures, contributing 12 points.
“Ja’Marcus stepped up big time along with the bench,” Hart said.
Rico Kerney made three 3-pointers and scored 20, and Larrentz Manora had 10 points to pace the Bulls.