GULFPORT — Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman knows the fortunes of his team will turn on a promising yet inexperienced group of players.
Making sure his newcomers are not glued to the bench, Shuman has given them pivotal roles, ensuring the Pirates will go through a series of highs and lows as they learn by trial and error.
On Tuesday, they erred.
Ahead by eight going into the fourth quarter, Boca Ciega watched the lead and its undefeated season evaporate as St. Petersburg turned up the heat to win 53-45.
"There's no worse feeling than to be ahead by eight points and lose at home," Shuman said. "Especially when you know you beat yourself."
So dominant were the Green Devils in the fourth quarter that they went on a 21-1 run, halted when the Pirates' Norman Williams scored the last basket of the night on a dunk.
The pivotal moment came with five minutes left in the fourth and Boca Ciega clinging to a 43-42 lead. That's when St. Petersburg's Javarius Murray hit a 3-pointer, then stole a ball and was fouled as he hit a layup. Murray completed the three-point play by nailing a free throw.
The Pirates (5-1) committed another turnover on their next possession. This time, the Green Devils' Allen Wilson hit a layup to give his a team a 48-43 lead.
"We just started to turn up the pressure," said Wilson, who scored 14. "That set things off and gave us the momentum we needed."
This is St. Petersburg's second-biggest win in five days. Last week, the Green Devils (5-0) beat Clearwater at home.
"We've got a lot of veteran players and we're playing as a unit right now," St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said. "I thought our experience would help down the stretch against Boca Ciega because they have a young team and are still learning."