LARGO — By the time Northeast took the court for its championship game with Gibbs on Friday, the Vikings had already defined the role of Cinderella in the Class 5A, District 12 tournament.
The crowd was teeming with excitement to see if Northeast could continue its remarkable run.
But there were no surprises as the Vikings, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, ran out of miracles, falling to the No. 2 seed Gladiators 63-45.
Gibbs knew all about Northeast's penchant for toppling members of Pinellas' boys basketball aristocracy. After all, it was the Gladiators who fell to Northeast in a holiday tournament in December. Then the Gladiators watched Wednesday as the Vikings erased a 16-point deficit to beat top-seeded Boca Ciega in the semifinals of the 5A-12 tournament.
"We were ready coming into this game," said Gibbs' Quincy Ford, who led all scorers with 14. "All the talk the past few days was how Northeast upset Boca Ciega. We didn't want that to happen to us."
The Vikings (12-16) were overwhelmed at the start by the Gladiators' size advantage. Gibbs smothered Northeast's top playmaker, Andres Sanchez, holding him scoreless in the first half.
Meanwhile, Ford and his teammates got into a rhythm on offense and led 29-15 at the half.
In the third quarter, Gibbs (20-7) outscored Northeast 21-14 to put the game away. Besides Ford, Devante Miley (12 points), Deion Miley (11) and Gary Simon (10) also reached double figures.
Sanchez still led the Vikings in scoring with 13 in the second half.
"We came out and got off to a good start and we were able to maintain it," Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. "That was a big key for us."