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Berkeley Invite final: Wharton hangs on, hangs first loss on Sickles

TAMPA — Given the late-game heroics Wharton and Sickles offered fans the first two days of the Berkeley Basketball Invitational, both teams knew Wednesday night's championship game might come down to the final shot.

Wharton rallied from nine down in the final quarter to beat St. Petersburg in Tuesday's semifinal. And the Gryphons overcame a 22-point gap to beat Berkeley Prep the same night, that after a comeback overtime win over Newsome on the tournament's opening day.

And sure enough, Sickles' Jordan Davis, who rallied the Gryphons from 12 down with six minutes left, scooped up a loose ball near midcourt, took two dribbles and heaved a would-be winner that bounced off the backboard and off the front iron as time expired.

The Wildcats held off that late Sickles charge to hand the Gryphons their first loss of the season — also while avenging their only setback — with a 52-50 win.

"We studied the film from our last game and we took a hard look at what had to be done," Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli said of the Wildcats' eight-point loss this month.

Wharton senior Damian Dixon, the tournament's MVP, scored six of his 19 points in the final quarter, playing the whole period with four fouls.

"It wasn't about revenge for us," Dixon said. "We wanted to prove how good we are. The first game we turned the ball over too many times."

Forward Xavier Owens, who scored a team-high 21, paced a 10-2 third-quarter run that gave Wharton a 34-24 lead out of halftime, scoring three consecutive baskets.

The lead grew to 12 on Owens' putback with 5:07 remaining, but that's when Sickles began fueling another comeback. Rashawn Rembert, who led Sickles with 21 points, scored four straight baskets, including bookend 3-pointers to cut the gap to 52-50.

"We know what it's like to come back like that," Dixon said. "So when we sensed it, we knew we had to step up."

Wharton could have closed it out, but missed the front end of a one-and-one then missed two more free throws.

That gave Sickles one more shot with three seconds left, but a loose ball didn't allow Davis much time and he lofted the final shot near the scorer's table.

"I just wanted to get a shot," Davis said. "The ball was rolling on the floor and I didn't know how much time was left. It didn't go so it doesn't matter. We can't rely on coming back in the second half later in the season.

"But this is a win for us. It showed we can withstand a little run and get back into the game."

Owens and A.J. Astroth (eight points, two 3-pointers) were named to the all-tournament team from Wharton. Sickles guards Davis (18 points, four 3-pointers) and Caleb Kamm also received all-tournament honors.

In the tournament's third-place game, St. Petersburg (11-1) beat Berkeley Prep (7-3) 57-38. Darion Bentley, Gabriel Moton and Allen Wilson each scored 11 in the Green Devils' win.

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Berkeley Invite final: Wharton hangs on, hangs first loss on Sickles 12/23/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 11:12pm]
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