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Tampa Hoops Classic: Familiar struggles nearly trip Blake

TAMPA — Holding a lead has been a struggle all season for Blake, according to coach Winston Davis.

Against Cocoa in the Florida Elite Series on Monday, the Yellow Jackets again left Davis exasperated at his team's inability to finish off opponents.

Ahead 58-42 with 31/2 minutes remaining, Blake nearly stumbled down the stretch. A late 15-0 charge by Cocoa brought the Tigers to within a point with 1:23 on the clock.

Blake, however, collected its breath, made crucial plays down the stretch and held off Cocoa for a 65-57 victory at Plant.

"Clock management, throwing the ball away, we've got to get better at the end of the game," Davis said.

Behind a superb shooting night from sophomore Brandon Channer, the Yellow Jackets (10-2) opened up a 36-18 lead by halftime. Channer made four 3-pointers on six attempts in the first half.

After three quarters, the Yellow Jackets were ahead 48-34 and appeared to be in command, that is until the Tigers began furiously chipping away with little time on the clock.

"We got a bit rattled and we weren't executing down the stretch," Channer said. "We weren't running our sets right."

Cocoa had a chance to take its first lead with the ball and trailing by a point with a little more than a minute remaining, but Blake's George Taliaferro came up with a big block on a potential layup.

The Yellow Jackets' Joe Morris drained two key free throws with 44 seconds on the clock to push the lead back to three, then Michael McFarland, who filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks, scored and was fouled with 32 seconds left to clinch.

"We came through at the right time," Davis said.

Channer finished with a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Andre Smith contributed 18 points and hit two critical free throws with 25 seconds remaining. Taliaferro had 12 rebounds to go along with six points.

Playing on its home court, Tampa Prep advanced to the quarterfinals at the Tampa Hoops Classic with a 67-57 victory over Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep.

Jamal Cherry and Jordan Heath combined to go 14-of-17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to hold off the Indians.

"They had to foul us, and we just made sure we had the ball in the right guys' hands," Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon said. "They're my best free-throw shooters."

Cherry led the Terrapins with 19 points. Jay Bowie had a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Devonte Morgan added 16 points.

The Terrapins play Dr. Phillips tonight at 8.

In earlier action at the Florida Elite Series at Tampa Prep, King lost a nail-biter 67-63 to Woods Haven Prep.

Tampa Hoops Classic: Familiar struggles nearly trip Blake 12/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 1:07am]
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