ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood has struggled this season against opponents outside of the area, but the Spartans proved Monday night they are still the team to beat in Pinellas County.
Led by 15 points apiece from Kasey Drayton and Alexis Ungro and 12 from Shineice Beamon, Lakewood rolled to a 51-40 win over Class 5A, District 12 rival Boca Ciega.
The win creates a logjam in the district. Lakewood, Boca Ciega and Bradenton Southeast are in a tie for first. For Lakewood, it also ensures a spot in the PCAC championship game this month.
None of that really matters to Spartans coach Necole Tunsil, whose team was coming off a one-point loss to Southeast. She just wanted to see Drayton, Ungro and Beamon step up their scoring.
“With that three-headed monster, who’s going to beat us?” Tunsil said. “Those three start putting the ball in the basket and who’s going to beat us?
“I need my monsters to step up. The role players are going to do their job; I need those three to step up.”
While Lakewood (9-6) eventually wore out the Pirates, the game was close in the first half. Boca Ciega (13-8) jumped out to a 7-2 lead and led for much of the first quarter. But Lakewood ended the quarter on a 7-0 run.
Boca Ciega wouldn’t go away, thanks to the scoring of Olivia Hester and Destiny Brown. There were six lead changes in the quarter.
Boca Ciega was up by two until Ungro hit a buzzer beater from just across the halfcourt line to give the Spartans a 29-27 lead.
That seemed to spark Lakewood, which didn’t allow the Pirates a third-quarter field goal and went on a 7-0 run to start the half. Ungro started driving to the basket, while Drayton hit shots from outside and Beamon scored hard-earned points inside.
Boca Ciega closed the gap to 43-36 early in the fourth quarter, but Ungro, Drayton and Beamon closed out the game with a 6-0 run.
The Pirates suffered a big blow in the second half when Hester had to leave the game with a concussion. She scored 13. Brown scored 14 to lead Boca Ciega.
“We just kind of fell apart,” Pirates coach Michael Hall said. “We got away from what we do. We weren’t disciplined, and when you’re not disciplined you can’t beat this team.”
The game had extra meaning for Ungro, who transferred from Boca Ciega last year. This was her first game against her old team.
“It was a good feeling,” Ungro said. “We showed how we can play.”
Lakewood is without starting forward Tianah Alvarado, who undergoes season-ending knee surgery Friday. Tunsil said her team is playing well but isn’t quite at its best.
“We haven’t peaked yet,” Tunsil said. “We’re still stumbling. If a team plays us tough, we can be beat. But lately, we’ve been beating ourselves.”