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Boca Ciega has Lakewood right where it wants it.
Never mind the fact that the Pirates haven’t beaten the Spartans in three tries this season. In fact, they haven’t beaten them since Feb. 6, 2009.
And never mind that Tuesday's Class 5A region semifinal will be at Lakewood, a gym where Pinellas County opponents go to die.
Boca Ciega believes it’s ready to break through.
“I don’t think we want to play anybody else," Pirates coach Michael Hall said Monday. “Our kids want to play them. They don’t want to move on without slaying the beast. They’re ready for them. They know they are close. They can taste it."
Boca Ciega (24-6) almost wanted Lakewood a little too much.
The Pirates needed overtime against Robinson in Thursday’s region quarterfinal to advance. They tried a new motion offense to get ready for Lakewood, resulting in numerous turnovers and a near loss.
“That was a dumb idea in hindsight," Hall said.
But Destiny Brown came through with 21 points, five in overtime, to lead Boca Ciega to victory and set up the rematch. Brown, a senior guard, has come on in the second half of the season and shared the scoring load with freshman Niaya White. (Senior Kenya
Joseph, who has been a spark off the bench, will not play after suffering a concussion against Robinson. She’ll be replaced by Kayleigh Shannon.)
As is always the case for teams playing Lakewood (20-5), the key is shutting down senior guard Tianah Alvarado, who averages more than 20 points and can take over if given the chance.
Senior point guard Alexis Ungro and freshman center Siyana Allen have also given opponents fits. And with Deja Swinton healthy again after suffering a minor concussion about a month ago, Lakewood has almost all of its pieces in place. The only player missing is senior forward Kasey Drayton (thumb injury).
“We got a super-secret game plan," Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said with a laugh. “Nah. This is all about heart. It’s difficult to beat a team three or four times in a row. So is Tianah going to play with heart? Is Lex (Ungro) going to play with heart? Is Siyana going to play with heart? That’s what it’s about at this point."
For Boca Ciega, it’s all about showing a familiar opponent something different.
“You can’t lose to a team three times in a row and then do the same thing again and expect a different result," Hall said. “We’re coming in with four or five new things.
“They are still the best team, but we’re closing the gap. We just need that one more push in the fourth quarter and we’ll be in a good spot. At one point we thought it was impossible, now we feel like we have a shot. That’s if we do everything perfectly."
Class 3A region semifinal
Who: Indian Rocks Christian (15-13) at Calvary Christian (22-3), 7 Tuesday
Season series: Calvary Christian has won all three meetings this season — 58-26 and 71-40 in the regular season, and 50-10 in the district final.
Players to watch: Calvary Christian — Freshman G Savannah Plentovich (14.2 ppg, 5.5 steals per game), freshman G Carley Plentovich (13.2 ppg), senior G Caroline Andreassen (10.4 ppg, 33 percent three point shooting), senior C Rachel Mostert (5.4 rebounds per game). Indian Rocks Christian — Senior G Rachel Boyette (scored more than 1,000 points in career, had 17 blocks against St. Petersburg Catholic in district semifinal), freshman G Autumn Frost (scored 17 against SPC and 11 in region win over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney).