Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nease, with Ease Panthers Rout Key West for 3A Crown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nease, with Ease Panthers Rout Key West for 3A Crown

Article excerpt

Byline: Bryan Mullen, Times-Union sports writer

LAKELAND -- It's been 10 years since they were last here. Ten years, as in 120 months, or 520 weeks.

But this morning, they are celebrating the number 'one.'

As in No. 1 in the state.

The Nease boys basketball team claimed the Class 3A state title yesterday at The Lakeland Center, outplaying and outhustling Key West High School 75-59 in front of a deafening crowd of 3,132. Nease's Chet Stachitas provided yet another impressive effort, recording a game-high 33 points and 15 rebounds.

"It was the last game of the season, so we had nothing to lose," said Stachitas, who earned Class 3A championship most valuable player honors. "It wasn't as if we were saving anything for another game."

The boys basketball state title is the first in the school's 20-year history, coming exactly one decade after the Panthers' (32-3) last trip to the state championship when Nease fell to Jasper Hamilton County in the title game on a buzzer-beater.

"It's a coach's dream," Nease coach Bud Beech said. "This is the pinnacle of high school basketball. We've had some great teams, but this is the greatest team we've ever had. I couldn't be more happy for our school."

The Nease contingent was very unhappy in the first half, however, as the Panthers shot a paltry 39 percent from the field. Key West's defensive press and offensive game plan overwhelmed the Panthers, who trailed 36-27 entering the second half.

But then came the third quarter, an eight-minute span in which Nease provided the single most impressive defensive showing during this year's state finals. The Panthers held Key West, the No. 1 team in the state entering the contest, to one field goal in the third quarter while erupting for 21 points Key West's nine-point lead was turned transformed into a nine-point deficit.

Key West (27-3) had 23 turnovers in the quarter. Nease had only three.

"Once I caught the ball in the middle, that's when I had all my options," said Stachitas, who finished his high school career with 2,505 points, second-best in Jacksonville-area history. "That's where I'm most comfortable . . . …

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