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Region boys basketball: Strawberry Crest secures first postseason victory

DOVER — Maybe Strawberry Crest guard Malik Channer best summed up the Chargers' win Thursday night against Sickles.

"I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss," he said. "Any day."

Strawberry Crest used a huge second quarter and fended off a rally as the Chargers won their first-ever postseason game in school history, 50-41 over the visiting Gryphons in a Class 7A region quarterfinal. The Chargers (22-6) will host Freedom next week in a region semifinal.

"We're making history right now," Channer said. "We have high expectations."

Leading by five after the first quarter, the Chargers went on a 15-0 run during the second quarter to take a 31-12 advantage into halftime. Strawberry Crest got the majority of those points in transition off its press.

"We're a defensive-minded team from Day 1," Channer said. "That defense leads to points."

Neither team shot well from the line. Sickles (16-12) was 4 of 19 from the free-throw line while Strawberry Crest was 6 of 18.

"We've been scuffling on free throws all year," Strawberry Crest coach Andre Lewis said. "But we're all about defense and rebounding. That's our key."

Channer led a balanced scoring attack with a team-high 12 points for the Chargers.

The Gryphons' Bryce Nickels led all scorers with 14 points.

Class 7A

Freedom 58, Brandon 38: Freedom coach Cedric Smith believed last season's team was a bit more talented than the one that faced Brandon on Thursday in a region quarterfinal.

Smith's current squad, however, is hungrier and has a chemistry that propelled the Patriots to a district title. Now it also has Freedom's first playoff victory in school history.

Behind a suffocating defense, Freedom opened an early lead and pulled away in a 58-38 win.

"Our guys were upset last year after we lost in the district tournament. We thought we had a pretty good team," Smith said. "… These guys really care about each other this year. I think that's what's different."

Freedom (17-6) used a 9-2 run over the final three minutes of the first half to turn a three-point lead into a 29-19 advantage at the break. Senior guard Riley Blake hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Patriots a momentum boost.

Freedom senior forward Daniel Thompson, a transfer from Key West, made three baskets in two minutes at the end of the third quarter to push the Patriots' lead to 15.

Freedom held Brandon (15-13) to 15 points in the second and third quarters combined.

"Defense is key; that's how we're going to win these games," said Thompson, who scored a game-high 16. "We play great team defense. We play together and help one another out."

Brandon got a team-high 11 points from Roderick Davis but fell victim to 23 turnovers.

Class 8A

Wharton 55, PHU 23: The game plan for Palm Harbor University was to slow the tempo. Instead, Wharton took the Hurricanes' breath away with an unprecedented defensive effort.

The Wildcats (20-6) held PHU (16-11) without a point in the second quarter — the Hurricanes' first scoreless period of the season — and rolled to their fifth region semifinal.

The Wildcats led 8-6 late in the first quarter when they went on a 17-0 run that carried into the opening minute after intermission. By then, PHU was down 25-6 and its methodical offensive attack had little chance at a comeback.

"Coach (Tommy Tonelli) told us to pick up the intensity on defense as well on offense," said John Christian, who led Wharton with 16 points. "The first half we were struggling a little bit, but toward halftime, (Tonelli) really stressed (defense) and we did what he told us to do."

St. Petersburg 63, Newsome 38: The Green Devils (21-3) scored the game's first 13 points, aided by two layups from Ben Clare and 3-pointers from Darius Banks and Terrell Burney, and Newsome (17-10) never caught up.

Coach Chris Blackwell said the game plan was to play fast early and guard Newsome's Hayden Harkins tightly. He scored three points.

Times staff writer Rodney Page, and correspondents Don Jensen and Bryan Burns contributed to this report.

Region boys basketball: Strawberry Crest secures first postseason victory 02/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:38pm]

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