By John McGurl

After being a surprise winner of the Class 8A, District 7 tournament (following a regular season record of only 11-14, 4-4 in District 8A-7), the District champion Wharton Lady Wildcats season has ended with a loss in the Region 8A-2 tourney quarterfinals to the East Lake Eagles, the runners-up of District 8A-8 (15-12).

Wharton’s third-seeded girls hadn’t been at full health for most of the season, according their head coach Chad Reed, and were not expected to make it the District title game.

In the Regional quarterfinals, Wharton ran out to an early six-point lead, before trailing by one at half time. Coach Steve Plummer’s Eagles changed the pace of the game by switching up their defense in the third quarter to a tight man coverage strategy to pull away from the ‘Cats.


Success At Districts

The Regional loss followed a victory in the District 8A-7 final, 66-57, over the fourth-seeded Newsome Wolves. The Wildcats and the Wolves were both long shots to even make it to this match up, but Wharton jumped out to a strong 10-point lead at the half, and never looked back while rolling to the win.

During the game against Head Coach Sarah Seelbach’s Wolves, the top scorers for the Wildcats were senior guard Monica Cazes with 18 points on an astounding six three- pointers, and senior forward/post player Abbigale Kaczmarek, who had 17 points.

In the first District game against #2 seed Durant High, the ‘Cats eased to a 57-48 win, as Kaczmarek and junior forward/guard Shannon Clark had 12 points each, with Cazes chipping in with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.

For the season, the Lady Wildcats had 128 three-point FGs made this season, with Cazes tossing in 80 of them — which placed her at number five in the state and number one in Hillsborough County. Cazes also led the team with 270 points, for a 10.4-per-game average on the season. Kaczmarek averaged 11.1 points per game with 242 points on the season (she missed a few games), and also averaged 3.3 rebounds per game. Clark, who average 3.2 rebounds, led the team with 86 boards overall, and scored an average of 9.0 points per game. Freshman guard Kayla Clemons led the team in steals (1.2 per game) and assists.


Boys Also Beaten By East Lake At Regionals

After winning a third consecutive District title (in District 8A-7) the Wharton Wildcats (24-4) could not overcome the East Lake Eagles, the runners up in District 8A-8, in the first round of the Region 8A-2 tournament. With the Eagles ahead by only one point in the last 13 seconds, coach Tommy Tonelli’s Wildcats surged down court for a final play, but senior forward Patrick Hauri’s shot — that would haven given the ‘Cats a win — seemed to hang on the rim for an agonizing second or more. The ball fell outside the hoop, and coach Joe Blozanli’s Eagles (14-8) erupted in celebration.

The game was back and forth for most of the night. The Wildcats struggled during the first half, trailing by 8 at halftime, before rallying late to make it close. East Lake was only up by two going in to the final quarter of play and lost the lead early, but regained it quickly. Wharton junior point guard CJ McGill tied it up at 63 with 38 seconds left with his fifth three-point FG. A free throw by East Lake forward George Campbell proved to be the game winner when Hauri’s final shot rimmed out.

McGill led his team in the game with 23 points, eight in the fourth quarter, including the five 3-pointers. Hauri had a double-double, with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while junior Sir Patrick Reynolds chipped in with 12 points and 8 boards.


District Dominance

Wharton breezed through the 2012 District 8A-7 tourney this season. Triumphs over both Bloomingdale and Plant High sent the Wildcats to their third consecutive District Championship. The top seeded ‘Cats trumped Bloomingdale 54-23 to advance to a showdown with the #2 seeded Plant Panthers, who proved no match for Wharton in a 68-48 rout.

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