Boys basketball: Lakewood 66, Gibbs 63
ST. PETERSBURG – Throughout the first quarter, Lakewood did everything right. Layups, jumpers, 3-pointers, every shot seemed to connect.
Gibbs, meanwhile, went cold. The result was a 22-point lead for the Spartans.
Yet it was not a comfortable enough lead, especially in this rivalry. Sure enough, the Gladiators battled back. They started hitting from the outside. They forced turnovers.
Lakewood, meanwhile, could not make free throws. By the final minute, the lead was reduced to single digits. In the end, the Spartans were able to hang on for a 66-63 win to complete the season sweep of their fiercest rival.
More importantly, Lakewood went undefeated in Class 6A, District 11 play and clinched the top seed.
“I think there’s like a spirit or something that hangs over both teams and won’t allow either one of us to win big,” Spartans coach Anthony Lawrence said. “They always are close in this rivalry.”
The strong start for Lakewood (13-5) was due in large part to the shooting touch of Tyrese Hurst, who finished the first quarter with 17 points.
“It was the definitely the best quarter I’ve had shooting all season,” Hurst said. “I’ve been doing it a lot in practice. I started feeling it early and my teammates just kept feeding me.”
Gibbs (15-5) was not able to put too much of a dent into the deficit in the second quarter and trailed 43-24 at the half.
Then the Gladiators turned up the pressure. By the end of the third quarter, they had cut it to 55-41.
In the fourth quarter, Gibbs turned a potential blowout into a tight game. David Pierce hit four of his six 3-pointers in the quarter to ignite the Gladiator offense. The junior finished with 26 points.
Lakewood helped Gibbs get back into the game by missing 13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Spartans, thanks to that first-quarter performance, had just enough cushion to win.
The Gladiators had their 12-game win streak snapped. All five losses this season have been by five points or fewer.
“We just came out of the locker room not ready to play,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “I knew we would come back and make a run. Every loss has been a learning experience. We’ll see them again.”