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TAMPA — After a somewhat timid opening half Tuesday night, the Berkeley Prep Buccaneers added some physicality to their fleet style of play in the final 16 minutes.
And junior Justin Gray had the throbbing headache to prove it.
Gray’s head-to-floor collision, after taking a hard fourth-quarter foul, was the only lowlight in an otherwise dazzling second half for Berkeley (4-0). Trailing Lakewood (2-1) by eight in the third, the Buccaneers scored 15 consecutive points en route to a 70-58 triumph.
“In the first half, I thought we were just a little too soft frankly on both ends of the floor,” Buccaneers coach Bobby Reinhart said. “Our defensive effort in the second half was really, really good.”
Gray, who scored nine of his 15 points in the second half, had five during the 15-0 spurt, capping it with a layup that gave the host a 47-40 lead. Tampa Prep transfer Marshall Holmes (17 points) had six, including a four-point play after being fouled on a long-range jumper.
The Spartans answered with a spurt of their own, tying the score at 52 on Jared Gregory’s free throw with 4:57 to play. Five seconds later, Gray, a major Division I prospect who helped guide last season’s Buccaneers squad to the Class 3A state tournament, took his hard fall.
Gray indicated afterward he was fine, just a bit dizzy. “Hopefully he’s not concussed,” Reinhart said. “He hit it pretty hard. I heard it. I was hoping it was an elbow or something. Turned out it was his noggin.”
Gray scored on the play, triggering an 8-0 run that gave Berkeley a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Freshman Jacob Mathis’ baseline 3-pointer was the capper.
Gregory led Lakewood with a game-high 22, scoring 10 in a row during one stretch midway through the game. Anthony Lawrence added 12 before fouling out with 2:55 to play. The Spartans were whistled for 26 fouls.
“That’s one of the toughest teams we’ve played,” Gray said. “I think definitely by beating them we proved we’re tough, and we’re one of the toughest teams in the county by far.”