ST. PETERSBURG — In four games last season, Seminole and St. Petersburg turbo-boosted heartbeats and eliminated fingernails in down-to-the-wire finishes.
The Green Devils won each of those meetings against their Class 7A, District 10 counterpart, all by a combined 14 points.
On Tuesday, the schools resumed their rivalry. Once again, St. Petersburg prevailed. The only thing different was the way it happened.
This time, there were no dramatics. The Green Devils built a commanding lead and never allowed Seminole to get close down the stretch in a 53-40 victory.
“It wasn’t stellar, but our defense dictated the game,” St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said.
The Warhawks (4-1) had trouble getting into a rhythm with their perimeter game. That was due in part to the absence of Justin Hollis, the team’s top shooter, who went down with a knee injury in last week’s game against Tarpon Springs. Seminole coach Josh Walker said Hollis is expected to have an MRI exam this week.
“We’ll know more about his status after that,” Walker said. “It’s tough not having him, but we’ve won without him before.”
The bigger factor was dealing with the Green Devils height advantage. St. Petersburg (2-1) boasts a frontcourt that averages 6-foot-6. The Green Devils were able to make their presence known around the basket by altering shots, grabbing rebounds and making baskets inside.
“(St. Petersburg) has a lot of big kids,” Walker said. “They’re bigger than they were last year. Even their guards are big. That’s tough to deal with.”
Early in the first quarter, the Green Devils jumped out to a 10-2 lead with the help of two 3-pointers from Dayon Griffin. The Warhawks cut it to 12-11 but could never get any closer.
St. Petersburg broke away by staying hot from long range. Demontrae Adams made two 3-pointers within a span of a minute to put the Green Devils ahead by a comfortable margin.
“I just had a lot of confidence in my shot,” said Adams, who finished with 10 points. “I knew I had to make something happen, and those two 3-pointers changed the momentum of the game.”
Ahead 32-20 at the half, the Green Devils never allowed Seminole to get closer than eight points in the second half.
Blackwell preached to the team about finishing games, especially after St. Petersburg allowed a 15-point, second-half lead to whittle away in a loss to Haines City this past weekend.
“We just had to do a good job with time management and not the turn the ball over,” said Griffin, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “We couldn’t have another game like we had against Haines City. Not against a district opponent and rival. We just had to step it up, so we could move one step closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the district.”
Matt Cassity led Seminole with 18 points, including 10 on free throws.