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Land O' Lakes uses stingy defense to sink Sunlake

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 11:29 AM

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LAND O' LAKES -

When Land O'Lakes guard Ernest Mcclendon stepped outside the Gators' locker room for a brief moment following his team's 59-44 win over Sunlake, his teammates decided to play a practical joke and lock him out.

That trick wasn't really that unusual as the Gators defense all but locked out Sunlake from the gym itself.

With the exception of a three-point basket from forward Travis Doyel, the Seahawks mustered little if any offense in the second quarter as Land O' Lakes held Sunlake to just four points in the first six minutes of the quarter to take a 24-15 lead on a bucket from Victor Obi.

There was no secret in the Gators' game plan. Land O' Lakes coach David Puhalsk cringes at the mention of a zone defense or exotic matchup schemes. He's man-to-man through and through the Gators defense was nothing fancy or exotic.

Despite this, Sunlake had fits with Land O'Lakes' defense through much of the game.

"Our defense enabled us to get back in transition," Puhalsk said. "From the second quarter through most of the third we pretty much did what we wanted, but you have to give Sunlake credit. They battled back and pushed the tempo and we didn't respond well."

Sunlake coach Mark Hall couldn't exactly put a finger on the reason his team struggled.

"We were just kind of nervous," Sunlake coach Mark Hall said. "I'm not sure what the deal was. We were in a big rush and not running our plays like we are used too. I think we played kind of scared. The shots were not falling and it was not a good all around performance.

"And we couldn't throw one in the ocean from the foul line."

The Seahawks were 11 of 25 on free throws for the game.

But it wasn't just defense that powered the Gators. Mcclendon took matters into his own hands whenever Sunlake appeared to make a run, scoring a couple of key buckets late in both the second and third quarters. He scored seven unanswered points with just under two minutes left in the third, including a three-pointer from the top of the key for a 45-25 lead.

"I wanted to win, I do what I can to help the team," Mcclendon said. "My teammates would do the same for me. Hey, [Sunlake] left me open."

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