TAMPA — Dan Wright was a happy man following Lakewood's region semifinal win over Blake. Almost as if he never thought this night would never get here.
No, really. Ever.
"Hey, I'll tell you what, if you had seen us earlier in the year, you'd know how I'm feeling right now," Wright said. "I'm elated."
Playing possibly their most complete game of the season, the once-stumbling Spartans rolled past Blake on Tuesday night 79-66 to advance to the region final for the 13th time under Wright.
Lakewood will host Fort Myers, a 71-39 winner over Naples.
For a team that lost three straight at the end of the season, the Spartans (22-7) look like they are ready to make another run at a state title after turning in an effort that featured great defense, solid inside play and strong outside shooting, notably from guard LaDarius Barnes.
The senior scored 16 points in the pivotal second quarter, and finished with a career-high 39.
"I can't take the credit, I give it all to my teammates," Barnes said. "Mike (Singleton) got good penetration in the lane and kicked it out to me and I was able to knock the shots down."
Ahead 14-13 after one quarter, Barnes extended the Lakewood advantage by opening the second quarter with his first 3-pointer. He hit another, then scored and was fouled to complete a three-point play, then got fouled on a 3-pointer and completed a four-point play to make it 39-25.
Andre Smith, who led Blake (25-5) with 33 points, nailed a 30-footer at the buzzer, but Lakewood's lead was already insurmountable. Alvin Cunningham's tip-in capped an 11-3 run in the third that helped open the lead to as many as 22.
"Right now," said a smiling Wright, "we are probably playing our best basketball of the season."