ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence had one final plea as his team broke the huddle to start the second half of its Northeast Christmas Invitational semifinal game Friday night against Boca Ciega: "Don't let Dallas get going."
Dallas is Pirates guard Dallas Moore, and while the Spartans were trying their best, they could not stop him. Moore scored a game-high 31, 22 in the second half, to lead Boca Ciega to a 63-52 win over rival Lakewood.
The Pirates (14-1) will play Tampa Prep (14-0) in the tournament final at 8:30 tonight.
"It's a rivalry game," Moore said. "We always get up for each other. You know it's always going to be a heck of a game."
And it was fast-paced from the beginning. Lawrence's son, also named Anthony, scored the first two baskets on layups and the Spartans managed to stay ahead the entire first half. Lawrence had nine points in the first half and ended the game with 20.
While Boca Ciega hung around in the first half, it trailed 25-21 to start the third quarter. That deficit disappeared within a minute when Michael Clark hit an 18-footer and Moore drained a 3-pointer.
With the score tied at 33, the Pirates went on an 8-0 run to take a 41-33 lead and led 44-37 at the end of the third quarter.
"We just left so many points out there in the first half," Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said. "You can't do that in good games. We got it to where we wanted to get it, but we just couldn't score the basketball."
Lakewood (12-2) managed to cut the lead to 46-45 midway through the fourth quarter, but Moore continued to make big baskets, including an acrobatic layup and foul for a 3-point play that made it 54-47.
The Spartans did not get any closer. Boca Ciega scored the final six points to close it out. Aside from Moore's big night, Clark chipped in 19 points.
"In the first half we were just not playing hard and letting them go by us," Moore said. "We just had to execute better. It's a rivalry game, so we were just rushing through everything. We had to settle down and execute."
Shuman has played against Lakewood too many times to remember and he knows exactly what to expect against the Spartans.
"It's always up and down against them," Shuman said. "One of us is going to force the other's hand. But this is just the first of three or four against those guys. That's what I told our team. This is just one of four."
Tampa Prep 45, Wharton 35: The Terrapins held Wharton to its lowest point total of the season in advancing to the tournament final. Senior point guard Josh Heath led the way with 15 points while Juwan Durham added 11. Tampa Prep (14-0) jumped out to a 14-2 lead and never trailed. Wharton (12-1) was led by Chase Litton, who scored 12. Wharton will play Lakewood for third place at 7 p.m.