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ST. PETERSBURG — Since losing D.J. White to a season-ending knee injury last month, Boca Ciega regrouped nicely with four straight wins heading into Tuesday’s game against district rival Lakewood.
That momentum continued in the first half as the Pirates relied on the perimeter shooting of Dallas Moore and the inside presence of Michael Clark.
But the Spartans have a way of taking away their opponents’ strengths, sending waves of defenders who can apply pressure and rebound. That was the difference as Lakewood turned a tight game into a 59-45 victory.
“The biggest thing we try to do is put teams in difficult positions because of our athleticism,” Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence said.
In the first half, the Spartans had trouble containing Moore, a deadly outside shooter who had 36 3-pointers coming into the game.
Moore hit 3-pointers on his first three shots to help the Pirates jump out to an 11-6 lead in the first quarter.
When Moore was not stepping back to shoot, he was slashing to the basket. So was Clark. The two scored layups and drew fouls. It was enough to help Boca Ciega lead 27-24 at halftime.
Then came the adjustments.
Lakewood (11-2) clamped down on defense, holding Moore to one field goal in the second half.
“We had to find a way to take the ball out of Dallas Moore’s hands,” Lawrence said. “That dude can shoot from anywhere.”
The Spartans also grabbed nearly every rebound, often scoring on second-chance baskets. With the score tied at 32 in the third quarter, Lakewood went on a 15-7 run to go up 47-39.
The Pirates (7-5) scored four straight, all on free throws, to cut the deficit to 47-43. But Boca Ciega could not get any closer as the Spartans closed the game on a 12-2 run.
Moore scored 20 and Clark added 18 to lead the Pirates.
Lakewood had three — Frezell Roux (16 points), Jacobi Boykins (12) and Alonzo Smith (10) — who reached double figures.
“This is Boca Ciega,” Lawrence said. “It’s a rivalry game and it doesn’t matter what the record is. The game is always going to be tough.”