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Leopards top Gators in 3A-7

Chris Taylor scored 25 points to lead Hernando High past Land O'Lakes 86-57 Wednesday night in the opening game of the Class 3A, District 7 boys high school basketball tournament. Cory Tibbs added 15 points and Carlos Timmons had 13 for the eighth-seeded but vastly improved Leopards, who converted 27 of 34 free-throw attempts. Doug Simon scored 16 points for Land O'Lakes, seeded last in the nine-team tournament.

Hernando advances to meet top-seeded Ridgewood, which has beaten the Leopards twice already this season.

"We really didn't know how to play this first 10 games of the season," Leopards coach Roger O'Neil said, "but now we do.

"We're really better than the eighth team in this tournament, in my opinion," he added. "I feel we're probably equal to all the other teams in the tourney expect Ridgewood, and I know it will take a very, very special game on our part to beat Ridgewood."

The Leopards beat Land O'Lakes (5-21) on their home court in Brooksville, but tournament action shifts to Saint Leo College today. Ridgewood and Hernando face off at 7:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal games are scheduled to begin at 2 this afternoon with Pasco meeting Springstead. Zephyrhills plays Gulf at 3:30 and Citrus meets Hudson at 6. The district tourney, whose seeding system is based on regular-season records (excluding holiday tournaments), is scheduled to conclude Saturday night.

Taylor scored 18 of his points in the first half, before O'Neil began to clear Hernando's bench. Reserve Eddie Fagin contributed 10 points, including eight consecutive free throws, as the Leopards' advantage grew.