ST. PETERSBURG — It may arrive in the first few minutes or near the end of a half. But somewhere between the tip and the final buzzer, Gibbs’ full-court pressure elevates and disintegrates opponents.
Ask Oldsmar Christian.
The Eagles, who entered with a 10-1 record and a slew of major Division I recruits, scored just three points in the first quarter Tuesday and had trouble getting their high-flying offense completely in rhythm.
Add up the numbers and you get the full-court, flat-out defensive assault that ignited the Gladiators to a 46-41 victory in a rare matchup between a county public school and non-FHSAA member Oldsmar Christian.
“There was a lot of talk between players from both teams about this game,” Gibbs guard Shaq Speights said. “This was the best public school team vs. the best private school, Christian school, whatever you want to call them. We might not be the tallest or most skilled team out there. But we’re going to grind every night and play hard. It all starts with defense.”
The pressure came right from the start. The Gladiators (8-1) came with a sea of blue and gold and elbows and feet and hands, all hawking toward the ball and trapping all over the court.
Turnovers led to layups and 3s for Gibbs. Speights did most of the scoring and had 15 points in the first half. He led the charge as the Gladiators jumped to a 15-3 lead in the first quarter and went into halftime ahead 24-19.
“Defense was our game plan,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “We wanted to pressure every possession and make it tough on them early. We also started knocking down some shots and that started to give us some confidence.”
The Eagles got back into the game in the third quarter and cut it to 27-26 at one point. The run was highlighted by a few alley-oop dunks by USF recruit Troy Holston (15 points).
Gibbs got a series of transition layups to get back to a double-digit lead, then held on to win.
Speights led all scorers with 23 points.