ST. PETERSBURG — It is not yet Christmas break, but the season already has taken its toll on Lakewood and St. Petersburg.
The Spartans are playing without starters Tianah Alvarado (left knee injury) and Shineice Beamon (sprained left ankle). The Green Devils are without junior Tia Brown (left knee).
But injuries didn't dampen the intensity Wednesday when the neighborhood rivals squared off for the first time this season. Led by Kasey Drayton's 15 points and 10 points by Alexis Ungro, Jacquette Green and Maya Madry, Lakewood pulled away for a 53-35 win.
"Our kids played with so much heart," Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. "We had to call on some people who haven't had the opportunity to play in big games all year. Kasey and Alexis are our leaders, but Kyah Woody played some crucial minutes for us."
St. Petersburg (6-1) trailed only 12-11 after the first quarter. But the Spartans (9-2) clamped down in the second quarter, outscoring the Green Devils 18-7, thanks to a 15-0 run, for a 30-18 halftime lead.
"We saw that the game was close, and we were like, 'No, this can't be happening,' " Drayton said. "We just took off from there. We played tighter defense, made smarter passes and didn't have as many turnovers."
Lakewood's defense stiffened even more during the second half, allowing only four points in the third. Ungro and Drayton frustrated St. Petersburg inside and outside. By the fourth quarter, the result was not in doubt.
"Homecourt advantage, all I can say," Green Devils coach Tamika Coley said. "We just couldn't get the shots to fall. We had plenty of layups. We had plenty of jumpers. But we just couldn't make them. They hit free throws, and we couldn't. It was one of those shooting nights."
St. Petersburg was led by A'desha Hobbs' 10 points. Freshman transfer Deja Swinton was held to five points and sat out most of the second quarter with three fouls.
Despite injuries, the early season game had lots of energy. There were hard fouls, two technicals on St. Petersburg and lots of talk back and forth. Tunsil expected nothing else.
"Hey, it's St. Pete and Lakewood," Tunsil said. "These kids play against each other in AAU. It's intense. They want to beat each other every time they play."