ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood limped into the Class 5A, District 10 semifinals with an inexperienced team and a losing record. Gibbs, on the other hand, entered at full strength and with the services of 6-foot-2 sophomore center Roshanna Streeter for the first time this season.
The result was predictable. The Gladiators started quickly, withstood a third-quarter run and blew past the Spartans 58-35.
Gibbs (13-8) will play at top seed Bradenton Southeast (25-1) Friday night for the district championship. The Gladiators, who qualified for region play for the first time since 2011, haven’t won a region game since 1987.
The loss snaps Lakewood’s (9-13) streak of four straight region tournament appearances. The Spartans won the Class 4A state championship in 2011.
That seemed like a distant memory for most of the game. Gibbs jumped out to a 14-5 first-quarter lead. The quarter ended with three straight layups by Iyana Hall, and the second started with another Hall layup. After a 5-footer from Lakewood’s Siyana Allen made it 16-7, Gibbs went on a 9-0 run that made it 25-7 late in the second quarter.
Gibbs built the lead to 32-16 early in the third, but Lakewood didn’t quit. The Spartans went on an 8-0 run, thanks to seven straight points from Deja Swinton. With 6:33 to go in the game, Lakewood cut the lead to 33-26.
But Gibbs settled down and scored 10 straight to put the game away.
“We kind of hit a wall,” veteran Gibbs coach Ed Jackson said. “We were trying some new concepts and that put the brakes on things because the kids were trying to think too much. They got the idea that it was just as we worked on in practice and they started loosening up a little bit.”
Gibbs was led by Bria Bostick, who scored 20, including 13 in the second half. Shalbria Murphy and Streeter scored 12. Streater has been out due to academic reasons for the first semester.
“You could tell that she’s missed game reps,” Jackson said. “She’s practiced with us but hasn’t played. Now she has a game under her belt and should help against those big players at Southeast.”
Allen had 17 and Swinton 16. Latavia Nelson (two points) was the only other Spartan to score. Lakewood has taken a big fall since playing in the Class 5A state tournament last season. Coach Necole Tunsil hopes opponents enjoy it while they can.
“If you were going to get Lakewood, then this was the year to get us,” Tunsil said. “For everybody that did, congratulations. But just know that there’ll be better days at Hollywood High.”