MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday night’s Class 5A region semifinal between Lakewood and Boca Ciega was survival of the fittest. The Pirates were playing without Kenya Joseph and lost senior guard Destiny Brown to a right ankle sprain early in the second quarter.
The Spartans’ Alexis Ungro, Kyah Woody and Deja Swinton were playing with injuries. And freshman Siyana Allen was fighting mental exhaustion after the death of her grandmother Friday.
Despite all of the adversity, the result was the same as it has been the past three times this season. Lakewood beat Boca Ciega, this time 52-45. Lakewood (22-6) will host Lake Wales on Saturday night. Boca Ciega ends its season 23-7, four losses coming against the Spartans.
“It’s been a tough week,” Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. “Deja (sprained right foot) sucked it up and played. She was awesome and we couldn’t have done it without her. Siyana is just torn up about her grandmother. Alexis is battling a hyperextended arm. And Kyah cut her hand trying to catch a falling vase. But we didn’t want to make excuses.”
At the start it was hard to tell Lakewood was wounded. The Spartans scored the first 10 points, seven of those from Ungro, and led 10-4 after one quarter. Brown went down hard trying to grab a rebound with 7:15 left in the second and had to be carried off the court.
After that, Lakewood broadened the lead to 16-6. But Boca Ciega came back with four points from Zoi Thompson and two free throws from Niaya White to cut the lead to 16-12. It got to within a possession when Ngozi Nix made two free throws to make it 19-16.
Lakewood scored four straight points to end the half and lead 23-16. Early in the third quarter the Spartans turned up the heat. The Pirates scored four straight to start the half, but Lakewood went on a 10-2 run to take an 11-point lead and stayed ahead the rest of the game.
Boca Ciega chipped away and got the score to 42-38 with five minutes left, but Tianah Alvarado, Swinton and Ungro continued to score key baskets.
“It was a very stressful week,” Swinton said. “They said if I could withstand a little bit of pain then I could play. But overall I think it went well. We knew we had Tianah and Lex, and we had to turn it up for the seniors. We couldn’t let this be their last game.”
Ungro led Lakewood with 14 points. Alvarado had 12 and Swinton had 10. Thompson led Boca Ciega with 16 points. White added 15.
“We spent the last couple days practicing with three and four people,” Tunsil said. “We were missing our timing a little bit. It was tough. A tough win for us, but we did what we had to do.”
3A: Calvary right on target
CLEARWATER — In the end, they were so open they looked like gym rats shooting alone in an empty building. Calvary Christian’s sharpshooters had time to twirl the ball in their hands to get just the right feel, square their shoulders and set their feet.
The scene played over and over in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s Class 3A region semifinal against Indian Rocks Christian. The Warriors put together another strong offensive showing to beat their rival for the fourth time this season, 68-33.
Calvary Christian (23-2) advances to its first region final and will play at Community School of Naples on Saturday.
“We had ups and downs in the game, but overall the girls played hard,” Warriors coach Brooke Sibert said. “We usually have a pretty balanced game and can work the ball inside and outside.”
There were fastbreak highlights to be sure, mesmerizing plays that started with a pass and ended with a layup by a streaking teammate.
But more than anything, the theme of this beating was perimeter-oriented, as Calvary made eight 3-pointers, including five in the fourth quarter.
The demolition marked the fourth time the Warriors have won in this series by 30 points or more this year. It also represents a changing of the guard with upstart Calvary Christian making its first playoff run at the expense of the county’s dominant program in 3A the past three seasons.
But the Golden Eagles did not go down without a fight. Unlike the previous meeting, in which a running clock was used in the second half because of the mercy rule, IRC did not let the margin of victory reach 35 points until the buzzer.
“I was happy with the way we played,” Golden Eagles coach Phil Farver said. “We competed the entire game. If we played like this during the season, we might have won four or five more games.”
Calvary Christian had four players who reached double figures in scoring, including Savannah Plentovich, who had a team-high 20 points. Rachel Boyette led IRC with 10 points.
Staff writer Bob Putnam contributed to this report.