Yantis makes early exit in Class A playoffs

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 23, 2007 - GLADEWATER - A good start, it turned out, was exactly what Bloomburg needed on Thursday.

The Wildcats scored the first seven points of the game against Yantis, held off a strong Owls' charge during the middle quarters, then pulled away at the end to stake a 67-56 bi-district win in the Class A, Div. I playoffs.

Bloomburg was able to ride the talents of its top three players as senior point guard Jason Granado and junior forwards Brett Sheffield and Raphael Davis combined to score 54 points, pull down 33 rebounds and hand out 13 assists.

Yantis countered with a 20-point, three-steal effort from Daniel Cerretani, nine points, three steals and four assists from Jordan Davis, and 14 points, six rebounds and three assists from Zach Leatherwood off the bench.

But, the Owls could never catch up after falling behind 7-0 in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the contest.

"We got behind by seven and then we just had a hard time getting back inside that," said Yantis head coach Larry Tucker. "Then, at the end we had to foul. They didn't hit their free throws great, but it was enough to hurt us.

"I can't say enough about my kids. I'm proud of the way they played."

Yantis was in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, and with only one senior - Jordan Thompson who had three points and four rebounds - the Owls should be back. Thursday, though, just wasn't their day.

"We didn't make shots in crucial situations," Tucker said. "We didn't shoot well enough."

Yantis made 21-of-66 field goals (32 percent), while Bloomburg hit 23-of-55 (42 percent). The Wildcats also went to the free throw line 20 more times (32-12) and made 11 more (19-8).

The Owls went 0-for-5 from the field to start the game before Thompson put them on the board with a left-handed bank shot off an assist from Leatherwood. Cord Burnett and Cerretani both hit 3-pointers later in the period to pull the Owls to within 13-8 at the end of the period.

They stayed within five or six points through most of the second period, which was punctuated by a hustling sequence late in the period when Randy Smith blocked two shots in a row, Cerretani picked up the loose ball and then beat Bloomburg down the floor for a lay-up.

"Teams are known by how they play, and I want people to know that when they play the Yantis Owls, they're in for the game of their lives, win or lose," Tucker said of the team's hustle. "We're going to be there until the very end, playing hard."

The Owls twice got to within three points in the third quarter - at 28-25 when Cerretani completed a 3-point play and again at 30-27 on a drive to the bucket by Davis.

But Bloomburg went on an 8-0 run to get the lead back up to double digits. The Wildcat run was keyed by Bloomburg's Sheffield, who scored 20 points with five assists.

Yantis was able to cut the lead to single digits only briefly in the fourth quarter as Bloomburg's Granado made 9-of-12 free throws to finish with 18 points, seven rebounds, four steals and seven assists.

Bloomburg held a definite edge of rebounding, 48-36. Yantis blocked seven shots - three by Smith and two each by Davis and Thompson.

Bloomburg will now advance to the area round to play Beckville this weekend.

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