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Girls basketball: Freedom 53, Riverview 51

TAMPA — A little more than a week ago, Taylor Emery — Freedom's lone returning starter — went off, scoring a career-high 41 to all but single-handedly deliver a big win to the Patriots.

Wednesday against Riverview, the win didn't come near as easily.

But instead of it being a one-woman show, four Patriots contributed at least eight points as visiting Freedom topped the Sharks 53-51.

For coach Laurie Pacholke, that's a victory in more ways than one.

"We can do what we need to do to put the ball in the hole," she said. "It's great on any given night I've got multiple kids that can really go off and hurt you."

Nari Garner led Freedom (11-3) with 18 points while Emery added 16. Bianca Igwe and Megan Clark each finished with eight.

The Patriots, who average 53 points per game, were held to just nine in the first quarter by a stingy Riverview defense. Freedom went into halftime with a 24-19 lead.

That would be its biggest of the night.

Riverview point guard Asia Royster came out firing immediately after the break, scoring seven of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter to help the Sharks (9-3) close in on their opponent.

Three times during the fourth quarter, the Sharks — who finished with five 3-pointers on the night — sunk one to make it a one- or two-point game.

Each time, however, somebody stepped up and scored for the Patriots. The savior's identity seemed to vary with every possession.

Pacholke said she was disappointed with her defense's play in the first half, but in the second, scrappy Freedom defense forced Riverview to take quick, ill-advised shots. Many of these shots — ones that could have either put the Sharks within striking distance or given them a lead —fell short.

Despite that, though, a Royster bucket with less than a minute to go cut Freedom's lead to two, and Riverview had hope when Igwe missed a pair of free throws.

With the ball in Royster's hands as the final seconds ticked off, the Patriots worked together on defense to stop two game-tying shots from going in.

It might not have been pretty, but the win was a joint effort by the Patriots. And to Igwe, that was the most notable thing about it.

"It wasn't what we expected at the end, but we all came together and came as one," she said.

"When it came down to it, we won because we were all united."

Kelly Parsons can be reached at parsons@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter at @_kellyparsons.

Girls basketball: Freedom 53, Riverview 51 12/18/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 11:15pm]

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