ST. PETERSBURG — Daniel Davis had the ball and looked up at the game clock. Two seconds left. The Gibbs guard knew the final shot was going to be his.
Shoot the ball cleanly, he thought. Square your shoulders to the basket, he reminded himself. Believe in yourself. As soon he released the ball, he started to fade away.
Buzzer sounds. Swish. Game over.
Davis’ 3-point basket as time expired in overtime Tuesday gave the Gladiators a 63-60 victory over neighboring rival Lakewood.
The shot had even more meaning for Davis, who transferred from Lakewood this summer.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” Davis said. “I just stepped back and shot the ball. I was pretty confident. I knew it was going in.”
This is the second game in the past week that Davis has come through against a county rival. He led the team in scoring and had several clutch free throws to help Gibbs (18-3) beat Boca Ciega and force a three-way tie atop the standings in Class 5A, District 12.
His presence has helped the Gladiators overcome the loss of Shaq Speights, who received a six-week suspension from the Florida High School Athletic Association after being ejected against Fort Myers two weeks ago.
“Davis has really played well for us ever since he started seeing extended minutes right around the Christmas break,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “It took him a while to get adjusted because he came here right at the beginning of the school season, but he’s been a big lift for us.”
Trailing 30-26 at the half, the Spartans found their rhythm in the third quarter. Anthony Lawrence Jr., who led all scorers with 27 points, finished the quarter with a 3-pointer from beyond NBA range as the buzzer sounded to give Lakewood a 43-41 lead.
Through most of the fourth quarter, the Spartans maintained their lead. They were up 56-52 with 12 seconds remaining. But lately Lakewood has had trouble closing out rivals.
The Gladiators took advantage as Darrel Fuller scored on a layup and Davis hit two free throws with seven seconds remaining to tie the game and send it into overtime.
In overtime, the Spartans’ Shabazz Waller hit two free throws in the final minute to tie the game at 60. That set up Davis’ heroics.
“We talk all the time about being a team and having guys step up at the right time,” Murphy said. “We’re always going to have guys come and go. When one guy goes down, another has to come through. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”