TAMPA — His team's lack of defensive fire in last month's five-point loss to Chamberlain left Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia so inflamed, he questioned the Gryphons' cardiovascular content.
"He said that our heart was pumping Kool-Aid," senior forward Rashawn Rembert said. "We didn't take that very lightly."
Consider the Kool-Aid spiked.
Whatever was surging through the Gryphons' collective bloodstream in Friday night's rematch at the Chiefs' gym probably could take the paint off ceramic. Behind a fierce 2-3 zone defense that shut down Chamberlain's top two scorers, Sickles rolled to a 61-35 rout.
"I think the guys showed a lot of heart," said Garcia, whose club (17-4, 9-1) moved into a first-place tie with the Chiefs (14-2, 9-1) in Class 5A, District 9.
"I was just a little upset with our defensive effort (the first meeting). This is a young team, and we don't have a boatload of talent. But there's no excuse for not coming out and playing hard on defense. We just felt that Reggie Hart and Eric Storts (46 combined points in the first game) really had their way."
On Friday, they had five combined field goals as Sickles shut down their ability to drive the lane. Hart finished with 14 points, twice as many as Storts, who didn't hit his lone field goal until 3:12 remained in the third.
"We had a mind-set that all they wanted to do was drive," said Rembert, an East Tennessee State signee who led all scorers with 23 points. "And if we went zone, there was no drive. They had to shoot."
Sickles scored the first 12 points of the game, capped by Rembert's putback dunk with 4:38 to play in the first quarter that prompted a Chiefs timeout. Chamberlain cut it to 16-10 on consecutive layups off steals, but Sickles responded with a 17-4 run to end the first half.
The boys game was a nail-biter compared with the girls. Gryphons guard Bre Crum and 6-foot-4 Duke signee Amber Henson teamed for 45 points in a 54-13 blowout of Chamberlain. Henson had 23 points and eight blocks.
Sickles (12-8, 6-2) defeated the Chiefs (9-5, 6-3) by only three in the teams' Dec. 10 meeting, but Crum and Henson were sidelined by injuries.
Friday, only a mandatory running clock, instituted after Crum's layup with 6:48 to play in the third made it 41-6, slowed them.