GULFPORT — A marquee matchup was as good as advertised, as Lakewood slipped past host Boca Ciega 74-68 Wednesday night.
The teams played to a 15-all tie after a first quarter that saw them trade timely 3-pointers. But the Spartans, led by the inside game of junior Shineice Beamon, pulled away in the second quarter to open up a 38-28 halftime advantage.
Pirates senior Tamara Taylor got off to a bit of a slow start. She hit 7-of-8 first-half free throws but didn’t notch a field goal until sinking a 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Pirates turned things around in the third quarter, and knotted the score at 39 behind 3-pointers by sophomores Destiny Brown and Alexis Ungro. A pair of free throws by Taylor gave Boca Ciega a two-point lead, which became five after Brown’s second 3-point shot.
But the Spartans stayed close and pulled within 49-47 thanks to two quick underneath baskets by Beamon.
Lakewood sophomore Tianah Alvarado scored her first field goal of the half midway through the fourth, giving the Spartans a 57-56 advantage. Boca Ciega would later tie the score at 61, but baskets by Beamon and sophomore Kasey Drayton put the Spartans up 67-63.
Ungro sank her third 3-point shot of the night to cut the Spartans’ lead to 69-66 with 35 seconds left in the game. That was as close as the Pirates would get.
Beamon led all scorers with 26 points, including 10-of-14 from the free-throw line. Taylor came on strong in the second half to finish with 24.
Spartans coach Necole Tunsil said team maturity was the difference.
“Bogie’s a very good team,” Tunsil said. “We went into the locker room knowing they were going to make their run. It was just us being mature and withstanding that run.”