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Packers fall from perch

Since Chamberlain's last trip to the state semifinals in 1990, the Chiefs had won just one region playoff game.

Clearwater, Boca Ciega and Largo had combined to win 39, make five trips to the state semifinals, play in three state championship games and win one state title.

But a funny thing happened on the road to Lakeland, site of this year's state championships.

Chamberlain clobbered Clearwater. Whipped Boca Ciega. And to cap the running of the gauntlet, knocked off Largo, ranked No. 1 in the state.

Yes, that was a collective "Ouch" heard from Pinellas County on Saturday, as the Chiefs downed the Packers 56-55 in front of roughly 1,400 fans.

The game was played at Pinellas Park because the Largo gym did not meet the seating capacity for a Class 5A region playoff game.

Largo coach Phil Price said the setting had nothing to do with the final result, which ended the Packers 20-game win streak. Whether Largo, Pinellas Park or Madison Square Garden, no matter the gym, a team can't turn the ball over twice in the final 10 seconds and expect to win.

"I thought we battled and battled, but down the stretch we made more mistakes," Price said.

Largo (26-3) had the ball and the 55-54 lead with 48 seconds left when Mike Helm slipped on the court as the Packers were trying to run some clock.

The Chiefs (27-3) weren't exactly perfect down the stretch either, but Mo Lightburn's putback with 21 seconds left after a mad scramble near the basket gave them the lead for good.

Largo had a few chances to win but couldn't even get a shot off. Trailing 56-55, the Packers called a timeout with 13 seconds left. But they failed to execute a play and turned the ball over with seven second left.

"We drew up a play and they didn't run it," Price said. "I don't know what happened."

Out of desperation, Largo fouled Chamberlain's leading scorer, James Devlin, with five seconds remaining.

But Devlin, who scored only one point after a first-quarter shooting spree, missed both free throws. With a foul to give, the Chiefs immediately committed their sixth team foul with three seconds left.

Largo inbounded the ball to Charlie Lytle at halfcourt. Lytle quickly turned around and fired a pass over the head of Mike Helm and into the stands.

Lytle scored 16 for Largo, and Helm added 14, but they were the only consistent scoring threats for the Packers.

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