ST. PETERSBURG — Randy Shuman will have to wait to get his 500th career win as coach of Boca Ciega’s boys basketball program.
Gibbs’ defense made sure of it Tuesday night.
Relying on withering full-court pressure, the Gladiators overwhelmed the inexperienced Pirates in a 71-35 victory.
“We came out a little sluggish, but as the game went on our defense started to turn it up a little more,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said.
“Our offense picked it up, too. We were able to run more and get into our transition game.”
The neighboring rivals were playing for the first time since last year’s district championship game, which the Gladiators also won.
But the teams were not as evenly matched this time.
Gibbs, which returns nearly everyone on a team with state title aspirations, is 6-1, which includes an overtime win over The Rock last week. The Gladiators’ only loss came by a point against Daytona Beach Father Lopez two weeks ago.
Boca Ciega, meanwhile, lost every starter from last year, including county player of the year Dallas Moore, who is now at North Florida.
The difference in experience showed. The Pirates (3-4) kept it close early and trailed 12-11 in the second quarter. Then Gibbs dialed up the pressure. The turnovers came quickly. So did the transition points.
By halftime, the Gladiators had a commanding 36-20 halftime lead. Gibbs would have been ahead by more if it had not gone 1-for-6 in free throws in the first half.
Free throws have been the Gladiators’ only weakness this season. Against Father Lopez, Gibbs had a chance to win, but couldn’t convert free throws in the final minute of a tie game.
Last week against The Rock, the Gladiators could have won in regulation, but missed free throws sent the game into overtime.
“We’ve got to get better hitting those,” Murphy said of free throws. “It’s cost us a game, and could hurt us more if we don’t get that corrected.”
In the second half Tuesday, Gibbs was able to expand its lead. Barry Brown scored a team-high 21 points. The Gladiators had two other players — Daniel Davis (19 points) and Shaq Speights (10) — who reached double figures in scoring.
“Our defense really picked it up for us and helped us win,” Brown said.
Shuman can go for his 500th tonight against Countryside.