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St. Petersburg Catholic finally exorcises Florida Air

3A

MELBOURNE - Noah Cumby didn't score his first points of the game until the last basket of the first quarter. Cumby may have taken some time to get into the scoring column but when he did, the senior guard took over.

Cumby scored 27 to lead the visiting Barons past No. 1 Florida Air Academy 83-79 in double overtime Tuesday.

"They sent us home last year, but tonight was our night," Cumby said. "It's just a really great feeling."

The Falcons ended No. 3 SPC's season last year in the state semifinals as well as the 2003 region semifinals, but the Barons were not to be denied Tuesday.

"We talked about whoever was the tougher team was going to win," coach Mike Moran said. "Tonight, the tougher team won."

In the stuffy Melbourne Central Catholic gym, that toughness was a factor. The Falcons (22-2) used an 11-man rotation to SPC's seven, but Moran said he thought it was Florida Air who struggled with fatigue toward the end.

"We had five timeouts at halftime and in the second half, we actually used them for rest rather than strategy," he said. "But I think their big guys were the ones feeling it toward the end. It was awfully hot out there."

But no one was hotter than Cumby. With the Falcons consistently double-teaming star Aaron Holmes (19 points), Cumby and guard Grady Jorgensen (23 points) found ample room from the outside to shoot and penetrate.

Cumby drained four 3-pointers and hit the Barons' final six points from the free-throw line.

Florida Air enjoyed a height advantage, but the Barons (26-3) countered with superior quickness and ball-handling. The Falcons outrebounded SPC 42-22, but SPC only turned the ball over 12 times to Florida Air's 22.

"They were bigger, but I thought we were faster," Holmes said. "We're used to playing bigger guys in the AAU circuit."

Florida Air led 65-63 until Jorgensen hit a pair of free throws to tie it with 1:12 to play. The Falcons attempted to play for the final shot, but Jock Sanders stole the ball with five seconds left to send it to overtime. Ed Rolax's free throw with 59 seconds to play in OT tied it at 70.

SPC went on a 6-0 run to open the second overtime and never looked back as Cumby went 6-of-8 from the line down the stretch.

"Nobody thought we could win this game," Holmes said. "But we gutted it out and proved everybody wrong."

A: Oldsmar Christian rolls

OLDSMAR - Timing is everything. In the case of Oldsmar Christian, timing is that and more.

Oldsmar Christian rolled over Bayshore Christian 70-50 and exhibited signs the Eagles are peaking when it counts.

Freshman guard Chris Perez led the winners with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and junior forward Watkins Williams scored 19 as the Eagles advanced to the region final for the first time.

"Every game, it gets better and better for us as a team," said Perez, who added seven rebounds and four assists. "We are at a point where we feel comfortable with each other on the floor."

The Eagles (19-6), who have only one starter, David Minaya, from last year's region quarterfinalists, opened with a sense of urgency as they outscored the Warriors 21-10. Perez was huge as he hit all six of his shots from the field, came up with three big steals, had a blocked shot and scored four of his 13 points off two offensive rebounds.

The Eagles stretched the lead out to 30-16 early in the second, culminating with a powerful dunk in the lane by Williams. But the Warriors (12-13) went on a 12-2 run behind Bryan Pluguez's nine points to cut the gap to 30-26. That would be the closest Bayshore would get, as the Eagles finished the half with five straight points to secure a nine-point halftime lead.

The Eagles put the game away early in the fourth with a 12-2 run to make the score 60-40 and cruised to victory.

Pluguez finished with 21 points to lead the Warriors and Justin Linabury added 13 for Bayshore.

- CHRIS GIRANDOLA,

Times correspondent

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