ST. PETERSBURG — The primetime matchup at St. Petersburg's annual shootout was a contrast in strengths.
The host Green Devils are led by a trio of electrifying guards — Serrel Smith and Tai and Terrell Strickland. The Gryphons, the defending Class 8A state champions, have an imposing frontcourt, led by 6-foot-8 forward Bryce Workman and 6-7 forward Denari Garrett.
There were quick crossovers, thunderous dunks and a barrage of 3-pointers from St. Petersburg's guards. There were lots of short jumpers and layups from Sickles' big men.
In the end, the Green Devils guards pulled through, especially in the final two minutes to pull out a 78-68 victory.
"Sickles is really good, and I could see a rematch down the road in the playoffs," St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said. "Our guard is something. That's what led us. I haven't seen two guards (Tai Strickland and Smith) who can do it like those guys can."
Tai had the hot start, hitting several long-range shots to help the Green Devils (12-1) jump out to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter.
The Gryphons (11-5) would not go away.
In the fourth quarter, Sickles took its first lead, 57-56, with 5:40 remaining, and went up by as many as three.
Smith took over late, hitting a crucial 3-pointer and making several free throws to seal the win. Smith finished a team-high 27 points and Tai added 23.
Workman led all scorers with 29 points and Garrett had 14.
Gibbs 61, Tampa Bay Tech 59 (OT): Trailing most of the game, the Gladiators forced overtime, then won it by hitting crucial free throws.
Tre Gilliam, who led Gibbs with 19 points, hit a pair of three throws with 1.2 seconds left that proved to be the difference.
The Gladiators (12-4) have a knack for hitting clutch free throws at St. Petersburg's shootout. Last year, Gibbs beat Class 4A state finalist Seffner Christian 54-53 by hitting a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.
Gilliam, who scored more than 30 points in consecutive games this past week, has become the Gladiators' go-to player, especially with David Pierce serving a six-week suspension due to a physical altercation at a tournament in Jacksonville over the winter break.
The Gladiators have won six straight.
The Titans (10-6) had their two-game win streak snapped. TBT has not fared well against Pinellas County foes this season. Last week, the Titans lost to Lakewood and Seminole at Clearwater's shootout.
Tyrick Brascom led TBT with 22 points against Gibbs.
Admiral Farragut 61, Lakewood 50: Saturday's game was a rare matchup for the private school against one of Pinellas County's top public schools.
Blue Jackets coach Julian Allen just wanted to play the Spartans at full strength. Lakewood was without starters Jamille Reynolds and Jalen White.
Reynolds, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, is out three weeks after partially tearing his meniscus in last week's win over Tampa Bay Tech. White, the Spartans' top recruit, is expected to return Thursday from a fractured bone in his wrist.
Admiral Farragut (12-5) got into a rhythm early, opening up a 19-point lead at the half. From there, the Blue Jackets cruised to pick up their third win this week.
Winston Dessesow led AFA in scoring with 22 points. Andreas Fuller, who this week was the lone bay area player selected as a nominee for the McDonald's All American Game, had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Lakewood's top scorer was Adrian White with 14 points.
Canterbury 61, Bradenton Southeast 59: The Crusaders have beefed up their schedule, playing public schools in higher classifications at shootouts the past two weeks. On Saturday, Canterbury (8-7) got above .500 with perhaps its biggest win of the season, beating a Seminoles squad that was 10-5 and had beaten Lakewood earlier this season.