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ST. PETERSBURG — After letting a 10-point lead evaporate in a buzzer-beater loss to Wharton last week, Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence spent the past few days of practice working on finishing.
So there must have been some moments of anxiety when the Spartans let a double-digit lead dwindle to five in the second half of Wednesday’s game against rival St. Petersburg.
But this time Lakewood found the wherewithal to hold on in a 72-56 victory.
“These guys keep finding a way to fight,” Lawrence said. “We went back and worked on end of the game situations and they responded.”
The Spartans (8-2) started strong, jumping out to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter thanks to the shooting of Jacobi Boykins, who hit two 3-pointers.
The Green Devils (9-6) cut into the deficit with their perimeter shooting and hit four 3-pointers to get within seven (24-17) with less than three minutes remaining in the half. St. Petersburg could not get any closer though as Lakewood went on a 7-3 run to make it 31-20 at halftime.
The Spartans carried that momentum into the third quarter and led by as many as 18 until the Green Devils rallied.
By driving to the basket and getting fouls, St. Petersburg chipped away until it cut the score to 41-36. But Lakewood pulled away with the inside scoring of Jared Greggory, who had 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Boykins finished with 22.
“The strength of this team is that anyone can lead us in scoring on any given night,” Lawrence said. “Jacobi had a great first half and Jared really came on with a big fourth quarter.”
For the Green Devils, the game was particularly frustrating considering they beat Countryside on Tuesday to snap a five-game losing streak. Wednesday’s loss was St. Petersburg’s first to a county opponent.
Dayon Griffin led the Green Devils with 18 points.
For Lawrence, the win was gratifying because it came against Chris Blackwell, his former teammate when at Lakewood in the late 1980s.
“Make sure you put in there that I’m one up on Chris,” Lawrence said. “We go way back and Chris picked on me when I was a freshman.”