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TAMPA — Somehow, Strawberry Crest managed to stay close. And somehow, Brandon Channer’s final free-throw attempt failed to go through the basket as No. 1 seed Sickles held on for a 38-37 victory Friday night in the Class 6A, District 11 championship game.
Sickles (21-6), which lost starting point guard Daniel Harris for the rest of the playoffs Wednesday to a left knee injury, rolled to a 13-point third-quarter lead as No. 2 Strawberry Crest (18-10) missed 24 of its first 27 shots. A sticky man-to-man defense, however, got the
Chargers back in the game as they went on a 15-1 burst to take a 26-25 lead. A layup by Devante Mitchem with 5 1/2 minutes left put the Gryphons back in front for good.
Strawberry Crest had one final opportunity to force overtime when Channer (17 points) was fouled driving to the basket with one second remaining and the Chargers trailing 38-36. His first free throw was perfect, but the second came off the front of the rim after hitting iron twice.
“Brandon Channer is such a great basketball player and every time he has the ball in his hands, you almost cringe as a coach because he can do so many things,” Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said. “It was a tough night playing without Dan Harris. So we had to shuffle some kids around. They were resilient playing certain positions that they normally don’t play.”
Brett Westwood led Sickles with 13 points.
“(Defense) is our bread and butter every year,” Garcia said. “Most kids think they can score. Everybody thinks they’re (Lakers star) Kobe (Bryant). But I’m a believer that most kids can’t score, but they can play defense. That’s just effort and passion.”