ST. PETERSBURG — After nearly a week off because of final exams, Boca Ciega returned to action Thursday with a giddy, unbridled scoring binge from its two stars, Tori Stephens and Latavia Dempsey.
Stephens scored 30 and Dempsey had 21 to lead the Pirates to a 66-63 victory against Class 5A, District 11 rival Lakewood.
"Those two can definitely take over a game," coach Will White said. "And we needed them this time around."
Thursday's game was entertaining from the start as sparks flew, shots fell and the box score nearly burst into flames as both teams sprinted out of the gate.
Early on, Boca Ciega had no answer for the Spartans' crisp play and clean shooting. That helped Lakewood build a 21-15 lead after the first quarter.
"In six years of playing Lakewood, that's the best I've seen them shoot from the outside," White said. "They were lights-out."
Boca Ciega (19-3) responded with its own flurry of shots, most coming from Stephens and Dempsey. It was enough for the Pirates to take a 35-32 lead at the half.
The game was back and forth until midway through the fourth quarter when Stephens hit a layup and two free throws and Dempsey knocked down a short jumper to give Boca Ciega a 66-59 lead.
Then the Pirates had to hold on as the Spartans' Kandis Frederick made one of two free throws and Destinea Harris swished a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game.
But Lakewood (11-6) could not get any closer.
"Our weakness for most of the year has been our outside shooting, and that's something we've been working on," Spartans coach Nicole Tunsil said. "It's starting to pay off for us. The big thing is getting ready for districts."