ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood jumped out to an early lead and held a comfortable cushion Friday, defeating Palmetto 72-61 for the district championship.
The Spartans depended on superior guard play. Senior LaDarius Barnes led the way by penetrating the lane, shooting 9-of-14 and scoring a game-high 28 points.
"Thank God I'm able to use my first step off the dribble," Barnes said. "I've got a quick first step and that usually does it."
Two athletic team leaders squared off at point guard. Palmetto's Reggie Baity kept his team in the game, scoring 18 to go with five assists. However, Lakewood's Mike Singleton controlled the tempo and finished with 17 points, six steals, four rebounds and four assists.
"Mike brings leadership and intensity," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said. "There are times when things aren't going well when he's breaking down the defense and getting in the lane."
The Spartans' half-court offense was unchecked by the Tigers. Lakewood worked passing lanes through Dominic Lane, who provided a dominating interior presence despite being dwarfed by Palmetto center Austin Gordon. Lane got rebounds and kicked the ball to perimeter shooters to finish with 14 rebounds, 14 points and four assists.
"We felt like we need to be patient on offense. … We did that tonight and we were able to get really good looks. I was really pleased with the guys getting the ball inside and then throwing it back out," Wright said.