TAMPA — They didn’t panic when their perfection was seriously challenged Monday afternoon. In their bid to remain undefeated, the Chamberlain Chiefs remained undaunted. They decided to man up on adversity, and Plant City’s dead-eye shooters.
Today, Hillsborough County’s most surprising team is 10-0.
Behind some air-tight perimeter defense and long-range proficiency of their own, the Chiefs rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit for a 54-46 victory against Plant City (6-4) in the opening round of the City of Tampa Championship at Tampa Prep.
The Chiefs, who ended the third period with a 15-4 run to pull back ahead, face defending champion Tampa Prep in tonight’s 7:30 semifinal.
“You don’t go to this point in time thinking it was going to be 10-0,” second-year Chiefs coach Christopher Snyder said. “We thought we’d be 9-1, 8-2. We expected to lose one along the way, but it goes back to (the players) buying into what we’re doing.”
What they weren’t doing initially was challenging Raiders seniors Brown Peterson and Nick Bryce, who each drained three 3-pointers in the first half. On consecutive possessions late in the half, Bryce sank a 3 from the left and right baselines to give the Raiders a 28-19 lead at intermission.
They would be the last baskets Plant City would score from beyond 15 feet.
Tightening up on the duo, the Chiefs forced Plant City to go inside to 6-foot-4 senior Chris Smith, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half but got little support elsewhere. Meantime, the Chiefs began their 15-4 spurt when Reggie Hart (17 points) drove the lane for a basket.
A Hart transition layup, off an Eric Storts feed, cut Plant City’s lead to 36-28. When Brian Morales sank the second of his back-to-back 3-pointers, the Raiders led only 38-37. Hart then put the Chiefs back ahead with a layup off a turnover with 21 seconds to play in the third period.
The Raiders still trailed by only three with two minutes to play when Storts (16 points) converted a two-handed dunk off a midcourt turnover. After a bad Smith miss at the other end, David Cook was fouled and sank a pair of free throws to make it 51-44 with 1:37 to play.
“The last two minutes, their team did what they were supposed to do on both ends of the floor,” Raiders coach Dale Chambers said. “We weren’t solid on defense, they were on offense. They executed and we did not. It came down to the last two minutes.”
In other action, Tampa Catholic (7-1) and Robinson combined for 75 free throws before TC — which watched four players foul out — pulled away in overtime for a 65-60 triumph. Crusaders senior Lashawn Harrison scored 11 of his 27 in the extra session.
In the day’s first game, Blake (9-0) got 22 points from junior Brandon Channer in a 50-20 romp of Strawberry Crest.