CAPE CORAL — Every high school basketball player wants his senior season to end in Lakeland.
Lakewood’s Jacobi Boykins, however, felt that desire a little more than most.
Fifteen months removed from a car accident that fractured two vertebrae and cost him his entire junior year, the 6-foot-5 guard helped punch the Spartans’ ticket to the final four, scoring a team-high 25 points in Saturday’s 64-53 win at Cape Coral Mariner in the Class 5A region championship.
“To be able to come back this season and be a part of this, it’s truly unbelievable,” said Boykins, a Louisiana Tech signee, who scored 16 of his points in a first half that saw Lakewood build a 25-point lead. “It’s a great win for us and our program.”
“He’s a hell of a player,” Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence Sr. said of Boykins. “He worked harder than anybody I know to get back on the court.”
Saturday’s victory earned the Spartans (19-11) the sixth final four trip in the program’s history and the first since 2008, when Lakewood lost to Fort Lauderdale Dillard 61-55 in the Class 5A title game.
The Spartans quieted the Tritons’ packed Frank Morris Gymnasium by unleashing a 16-1 first-quarter run that gave Lakewood an early 19-5 cushion. The Spartans’ defensive pressure led the surge, converting Mariner turnovers into easy baskets.
That advantage grew to 37-12 on a driving layup by Boykins with four minutes remaining in the first half.
The Tritons (21-9) began digging their way out of that sizable deficit and following an 8-0 run, pulled within 48-42 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
But Lakewood 6-foot-8 senior forward Michael Clark scored the final four points of the quarter, the final two of which came on a thunderous alley-oop from 6-foot-7 junior guard Anthony Lawrence Jr. to put the Spartans back in front by double digits and help secure the victory.
“I’m a little disappointed that we let them back in,” Lawrence Sr. said. “We stopped playing in the third quarter because we thought the game was over. But I’m proud of our guys. We had a lot of ups and downs this season. But I think the tough schedule we played prepared us to get to where we are.”
The trio of Boykins, Clark (14 points) and Lawrence (13) combined for all but 12 of the Spartans’ points.
“On any given night, you can stop one or two of them, but you can’t take away all of them,” Lawrence Sr. said.
Photo: Lakewood forward Michael Clark, who finished with 14 points, takes to the air for a dunk against Mariner. KINFAY MOROTI, The News-Press