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ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg faced a daunting task Friday night, down by 25 points in the first half of a road game and already reeling after losing four of their past six games.
But they did not lose their composure when trailing by double digits to rival Lakewood. They did not panic. They did not quit.
Instead, St. Petersburg mounted a furious comeback, capped by a fourth quarter in which the Green Devils scored 32 to win 76-68.
“The biggest thing is we just started to believe in our ability,” St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said.
The Green Devils (11-6) were not as confident early in the game. They fell behind 40-15 and looked as if they were still suffering a hangover from an upset to Countryside the night before.
By halftime, the deficit had grown large and time was running out. The Dan Wright Gymnasium was rocking. In those few minutes in the locker room, St. Petersburg had to find some formula, some strategy in which to regroup.
“We were just out of rhythm, out of synch,” Blackwell said. “We needed to just get a few points, stay scrappy and make it close at the end.”
The Green Devils found a burst of energy in the second half, chipping away at the Spartans’ lead and eventually pulling within single digits with 3:05 remaining.
“We all thought we could come back and win, even when we were down as much as we were in the first half,” said St. Petersburg guard Demontrae Adams, who finished with a game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers. “We did it before. We were down by 25 to Lakewood in the preseason and came back to win, so we knew it could be done.”
Adams ignited the rally in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer. The Green Devils also got a boost when Lakewood’s Anthony Lawrence Jr. received a technical foul for slapping the backboard and had to sit a good portion of the fourth quarter with four fouls.
Without Lawrence, who finished with 27 points, the Spartans (12-6) struggled on offense and St. Petersburg capitalized, outscoring Lakewood 32-8 in the fourth quarter. It was a tough loss for the Spartans, who let a big lead slip away against a neighboring rival for the second time this week.
The Green Devils’ Dayon Griffin put an exclamation point on the comeback with a dunk in the final 23 seconds.
“This was big for us, something we really needed,” Blackwell said. “I just kept telling the guys if we can get it close we’ll be okay. Lakewood is a team that likes to press. We kind of reversed that and pressed when we needed to and they cracked.”