Thursday, November 23, 2017

Boys basketball: Gibbs tops Jesuit


TAMPA — When guard Shaquille Speights broke his right hand in January, he believed his season was over. And others believed the same about Gibbs' state championship hopes.

But Thursday, Speights made his return and, like the Gladiators, he is far from done.

Riding a strong defensive effort in the second half, Gibbs broke open a tie game and cruised to a 60-45 victory over defending state champion Jesuit in a Class 5A region quarterfinal.

Gibbs (18-8) scored the first nine points of the second half in an 18-4 run. The Gladiators jumped passing lanes but were patient on offense against a trapping 2-3 zone, getting easy baskets to open a 49-31 lead.

"We talked about trying to speed the game up," Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. "We went to a different type of press in the second half to try and create a little more tempo."

Defensively, Gibbs held the vaunted long-range attack of the Tigers (18-9) to 2-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers in the second half, and the two Kyle Sahlsten made were from at least 25 feet. The Tigers rarely got an uncontested look.

"Coach told us all week they attempt at least 30 3s a game and we needed to cut that down to 15 a game," said Gibbs' Barry Brown, who led all scorers with 22. "Then he told us we needed to make those 15 3s contested 3s."

Enter Speights. Without him, Gibbs went 4-6. Thursday, his job was to shut down Christian Whidden, the Tigers' leading scorer. Whidden had made 81 3-pointers, including 27 over the past four games, but was held without one for just the third time this season.

"My favorite thing to do is play defense, so I wanted to lock him up," Speights said.

Sahlsten led the Tigers with 11 points.

Class 5A

Tarpon Springs 70, Hernando 60: Of the hundreds of maroon-clad fans who packed Tarpon Springs' gym, some were actually alive the last time the school won a playoff game. Just not many.

Now all have seen a playoff win.

Trai Halton scored 21 and Scottie James scored 15 of his 20 in the second half as Tarpon Springs beat Hernando 70-60 for its first playoff win since 1947.

Tarpon Springs (27-3), which hosted a postseason game for the first time since 1978, advances to play Nature Coast in Tuesday's region semifinals.

"Phenomenal. I mean, 1947," said Jerry Woodka, Tarpon Spring's coach of 18 years.

Hernando led 35-28 but Tarpon Springs changed to a box-and-one defense, guarding Hernando's top scorer, Mark Wilson. Wilson scored one point over the next quarter, going 0-for-5 from the field.

On offense, Tarpon Springs made six of its first eight shots, preventing Hernando from getting into its transition game.

Halton's five points helped the Spongers even the game less than two minutes into the half and were part of an 18-1 run that put them up 46-36.

Two late third-quarter baskets and a 3-pointer by Wilson to start the fourth got the Leopards to within 51-47. But Halton and Mitch Wilcox keyed an 11-2 stretch that followed. Wilcox had a three-point play and finished with 14 points.

Besides the 15 points, James had five blocks and 10 rebounds in the second half. He disrupted a Hernando layup attempt on one end then scored on the other for a 66-54 lead with 2:30 remaining.

"We definitely had to stop their fastbreak," James said. "We just came out and played hard in the second half."

Joel Wilson, a sophomore and Mark's brother, scored a team-high 21 for the Leopards (16-6).

Lakewood 85, Robinson 59: A 15-1 second-quarter run put host Lakewood up by 18, and it cruised from there. "There's not too many teams that have the size we have," Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence said. Robinson experienced that as 6-foot-4 Jacobi Boykins and 6-foot-7 Anthony Lawrence Jr. combined for 51 points, most on dunks or layups in transition. Robinson (17-11) cut the deficit to 10 but got no closer. Where the Spartans (17-11) had the size to grab defensive rebounds and the speed to get down the court quickly, the Knights struggled to work the ball inside and hit outside shots. "We wanted to make sure they didn't make any open 3s," coach Lawrence said. The Spartans did that, holding Robinson to four. Iyan Mitchell led Robinson with 13.

Class 6A

Largo 81, Jefferson 66: For one quarter, Largo made a frantic series of full-court sprints, pull-up 3-pointers and body-twisting layups to open a 10-point lead in its Class 6A region quarterfinal against Jefferson.

But all that sprinting and shooting came to a halt. Suddenly, the Dragons were running and cut the deficit to single digits late in the second quarter.

At the half, Largo coach Phil Price just wanted his team to relax. The Packers obliged, cutting down on the turnovers and the fouls to cruise to an 81-66 win.

Largo (25-2) now travels to Lennard for Tuesday's region semifinals.

"We got off to a great start, then for some reason we stopped playing," Price said. "I just told them we had to stop fouling. If we did that, we'd be okay."

The Packers were still running in the second half, but they did it on a more controlled level. The passes were crisp, the shots more selective.

Donavan Hale did his part, scoring a team-high 33. He was nearly automatic from the free throw line, 11-for-12.

"We just got out of rhythm in the second quarter," Hale said. "We had too many turnovers. We knew in the second half we just had to come out and play Largo basketball."

By the fourth quarter, the lead had grown to 18 points. Besides Hale, Jonathan Crawford (14 points) and Brandon Jones (10) also reached double figures.

Times staff writer Bob Putnam and correspondents Anthony Salveggi and Darek Sharp contributed to this report.

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