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Room to improve for Hillsborough, even in a 37-point win

It’s still early in regionals, but the Terriers entertain state title aspirations.
Hillsborough senior Christian Deleon helped lead the Terriers to a 73-36 victory over Sunlake Thursday night. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published Feb. 22
Updated Feb. 22

TAMPA — Hillsborough beat Sunlake 73-36 in a Class 7A region quarterfinal Thursday night, but Terriers coach Chris Ward wasn’t overjoyed.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Ward said. “We committed way too many turnovers. We need to be sharper.”

That’s because, as Ward emphasized, the goal is to not only return to the state final four as they did in 2018, but to win a state title.

“I don’t care if we’re up by 50 points, we have to stay focused and make good decisions,” Ward said. “We need to play well all the time no matter who we are playing or what the score is. We are trying to prepare ourselves for something bigger.”

On Thursday, the score swayed in Hillsborough’s favor quickly, jumping to a 26-8 lead after the first quarter and 40-21 at the half.

This seemed to put the Terriers (26-2) into a state of comfort that led to some passing attempts that Ward thought were too wild.

Turnovers or not, Sunlake (17-10) couldn’t keep up with the athletic Terriers, who scored time and again off defensive picks of their own followed by fast breaks.

Just a few seconds into the fourth quarter, Hillsborough — which will play at Land O’ Lakes in a region semifinal on Tuesday — led by 35 points, which meant the mercy-rule running clock starting ticking away.

“We have to focus on our game and what we’re doing at all times,” Ward said. “If we do that, we’ll be okay.”

On Thursday, Hillsborough’s Tyriq James led the way with 13 points, followed by Christian Deleon with 12 and James Pursley with nine.

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