ST. PETERSBURG — The Northeast Christmas Invitational started with a dud but ended with a bang. Sunlake opened the eight team tournament with an 82-65 win over Largo. But the nightcap was Lakewood's 57-56 win over Tampa Bay Tech that went down to the wire.
In between, Northeast defeated Newsome 60-54 and Wharton had little trouble with Dixie Hollins, winning 79-55.
Tampa Bay Tech lost three straight before Monday, but the Titans gave the Spartans all they could handle. Lakewood (6-1) trailed by 10 early in the second quarter but took a 28-25 halftime lead.
The game remained close through the third quarter, and with just more than four minutes to play, the score was tied at 47. Lakewood had a 9-0 run, but Tampa Bay Tech got some steals and took a 56-55 lead with 40 seconds left. Lakewood's Anthony Lawrence was fouled with 24 seconds left but missed his one-and-one free throw.
Then the Spartans forced a turnover, but were unable to inbounds the ball in five seconds. The Titans faced the same problem and turned the ball back over.
Lakewood made that mistake hurt when Ernest Clayton tipped in a missed shot with seven seconds left for a one-point lead. After a Tech timeout, Greg Jackson dribbled but lost control of the ball as it went out of bounds with one second left.
"We've got to learn how to finish games," Spartans coach Anthony Lawrence said. "We took that nine-point lead and they thought it was over. We've got some growing up to do. We can't make those mistakes. I'm going to work my butt off to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Tech coach Adrian Johnson said his team might not have won, but the effort was there.
"Our kids played hard," Johnson said. "There were some things I wish we'd done late in the game, but I can't fault their effort. That's a good team we played."
In the first game, Sunlake (5-4) jumped to a 22-8 lead and never looked back. The Seahawks' Terrence Tabois led all scorers with 24 points. Brenden Huynh chipped in with 20 and Jonuel Martinez had 11. Donavan Hale led the Packers (3-8) with 16 points.
In the second game, Patrick Mitchell scored 18 and Adam Barker added 16 to help the Vikings improve to 5-6. Newsome (3-6) was led by Dylan Bridges, who scored 16.
And Wharton looked like it might be the best team in the tournament after a convincing with over the Rebels. Patrick Hauri led Wharton with 20 points and C.J. McGill added 17.