GULFPORT — For three quarters, Gibbs showed off its shooting range, hitting an array of layups and long-range jumpers to open a sizable lead against Largo in the Class 5A, District 12 final.
Then the shots went cold and turnovers were more abundant. It all helped the Packers go on a fourth-quarter surge as they erased a nine-point deficit to tie the score at 64.
But this time, Largo ran out of comebacks. Ke'Owen Walker made sure of it.
The Gladiators forward scored on a layup, then hit two clutch free throws to help Gibbs regain the lead for good in a 72-68 victory. It is the first time Gibbs has won a district title since 1994. The Gladiators (19-6) host East Lake in Thursday's region quarterfinals. The Packers (21-7) travel to play Clearwater.
"We weren't too concerned when Largo was coming back," Walker said. "We just knew we had to stay focused. I stepped up my game because I wanted this title real bad."
With Quincy Ford knocking down 3-point shots and Walker hitting mid-range jumpers, Gibbs took command and held the lead in each of the first three quarters.
But the Packers showed their resolve, much like they did Friday, when they rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Boca Ciega. Largo got back into Saturday's game by making free throws and were 24-of-28 from the line.
"Ke'Owen definitely hit some key shots down the stretch," Gladiators coach Chad Johnson said. "It was a big moment for him because he is a senior. But I was pleased with the collective effort. This team was reminded of how long it had been since the school won a district title.
"I knew they were special and they went out and got it done."