MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
TAMPA -- From the stuffiness to the soft spots on the floor to the somber lighting, Chamberlain's antiquated gym had a Boston Garden feel to it Monday night.
Fittingly, Wharton (6-0) and Chamberlain (5-1) engaged in some Garden-variety physicality.
"It was unbelievably physical, intense," Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said.
Limiting the hosts' second shots after halftime, the Wildcats flourished in transition to pull away for an 80-63 triumph in a clash of unbeaten foes. Four Wharton players finished in double figures, led by seniors Sir Patrick Reynolds (19 points) and C.J. McGill (18).
"We were pushing the ball very well and hitting the little shots and making big threes when it came down to the wire," Reynolds said. "We were just pushing it more offensively than they were, and that's what got us the win."
After a first quarter featuring five lead changes, the 'Cats found their long-range touch, converting four 3-pointers in the second. Six-foot-7 senior Drew Vanderbrook (17 points) had two of them, his second giving Wharton a 33-22 lead -- its biggest of the half.
But behind senior two-guard Reggie Hart, last season's county scoring leader, the Chiefs clawed back. Hart scored all 12 of his team's points in the third, and had five in a row during a 14-8 second-half spurt that cut Wharton's lead to 55-51.
But Tyler Langston answered with a trey on the other end, Jaken Grier followed with a basket in transition, and junior center Chase Litton added a transition layup to give Wharton a 62-53 lead. The 'Cats' advantage would not dip below eight the rest of the game.
"We weren't giving them second shots and that enabled us to get out on the break," Tonelli said. "I don't think they did a good job of covering back, protecting the basket, and we did a better job of rebounding that enabled us to get some run-outs and extend the lead a little bit."
Litton finished with a double double (12 points, 17 rebounds, four steals) despite sustaining a hard foul from Hart on an apparent dunk attempt with a minute to go. Tonelli said the play was clean.
Hart finished with 28.
"Reggie Hart is just a hard driver," Reynolds said. "He'll stick his head in there any time he can get to the hole. So I commend Reggie on his (part) but it was very physical getting rebounds and boxing out and keeping him checked off."