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Favored Lecanto cautious in 2A-9

A 21-6 overall record and perfect 9-0 mark against Class 2A opponentsgives the Lecanto High girls basketball team reason to celebrate as the Class 2A, District 9 girls tournament begins today at Dunnellon High.

The Panthers are seeded No. 1 in the six-team field, but they must temper their joy with caution.

"The key to the tournament from our standpoint will be to play aggressive defense and keep the turnovers down," Lecanto coach Ron Allan said. "We won't change anything, though.

"We'll go with our regular rotation on subs. That's what got us this far."

The tournament begins with No. 3 seed Brooksville Central (12-11) meeting No. 6 South Sumter (2-20) at 6 p.m. The second game matches No. 4 Dunnellon (10-11) against No. 5 Crystal River (9-15).

Lecanto and No. 2-seed Wildwood (12-7) have opening-round byes today. The Panthers quest for the district crown does not start until Friday at 8 p.m., when they face the winner of the Dunnellon vs. Crystal River game.

The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.

"Dunnellon is the team that would be the darkhorse just based on what they did last week," Allan said. "They beat Wildwood (60-56 on Feb.8), and there's a good chance we'll end up playing (Dunnellon on Friday).

"Everybody wants to play one more game. Now is when you have to put together two good games in a row, because you can't slide through districts."

Central has a 1-2 punch at forward in senior Leann Cornwell and sophomore Maria Jimenez. Cornwell averages 22 points and nine rebounds, Jimenez 10 points and eight rebounds for the Bears.

"We need to play as a team," Central coach Joy Greene said.

"We can't rely solely on Leann and that's what we've done in the last several games. Everybody needs to score and play defense."

Crystal River is the defending district champion.

But the Pirates have lost nine consecutive games and are without senior guard Monica Proctor, their leading scorer for most of the season, who is academically ineligible.