TAMPA — Dayon Griffin could have driven the lane for his fourth dunk of the game — or put up an uncontested layup. But with St. Petersburg running and 5 1/2 minutes remaining, the Louisiana Tech commit stopped from 25 feet and swished a 3-pointer.
It was the exclamation point in St. Petersburg’s 63-45 victory against Wharton on Tuesday in a Class 8A region semifinal.
“Our biggest thing was that we wanted to make sure (Wharton) was going to get in a track meet with us,” said St. Petersburg coach
Chris Blackwell, whose fourth-ranked Green Devils are in their 11th regional since 2003. “(Wharton) is really good in transition and you have to make them work for a basket.”
St. Petersburg (22-3) never trailed and took 18 more shots than Wharton (20-7). The Green Devils overcame first-half foul trouble as Griffin (17 points), Ben Clare (16) and Terrell Burney (14) missed a total of 17 minutes. St. Petersburg was whistled for 13 fouls to Wharton’s four by intermission.
Leading 40-34 midway through the third quarter, St. Petersburg started a 12-1 spurt that was capped by a Clare layup on its first possession of the final quarter. The Green Devils’ largest lead came at 61-37 as Griffin’s three-pointer capped a 9-0 blitz.
“We got some scores in the second half (Wharton made its first five field-goal attempts), and then we turned the ball over and gave them some easy buckets,” Wildcats coach Tommy Tonelli said. “(St. Petersburg) thrives off turnovers, and their best offense is transition off of turnovers.”
Chase Litton scored 23 points and Jack Taylor 11 for Wharton, which beat St. Petersburg 50-49 on Dec. 28 for the Northeast Holiday Invitational championship.