Lakewood's Louis Rowe said it is a game that needs no introduction. But Gibbs' Pat Lawrence wants to introduce himself to the Spartans for the first time.
"Lakewood has been peaking all season," said Lawrence, who tonight goes against his former team for the first time since transferring to Gibbs in January 1989. The No. 2-seeded Spartans advanced to tonight's semifinals of the Class 3A, District 11 boys basketball tournament with a 74-44 win over St. Petersburg Thursday night.
Gibbs advanced to the semifinals Wednesday night with a 109-41 rout of East Lake.
Tonight's game begins at 6 at the MacArthur Center at Eckerd College. Tickets go on sale at the gym at 4:30 p.m.
"Lakewood already peaked when they won the conference last week," said Lawrence. "We're peaking now."
In the other semifinal game tonight at 8, top-seeded Bradenton Southeast plays Bradenton Bayshore. The Class 3A No. 1-ranked Seminoles routed Osceola 84-55 behind center Clifford Rozier's 41 points and 19 rebounds in Thursday's nightcap. Bayshore trimmed Boca Ciega 54-52 in Thursday's first game.
Lakewood, the Pinellas County Conference champion, and Gibbs _ the defending district champ _ will be meeting for the fourth time this season.
Gibbs (23-7) won the first game by two points, but Lakewood (27-4) won the next two games by one and nine points.
"Gibbs is a whole different team with Pat Lawrence in the lineup," said Rowe, who scored a team-high 19 points against St. Petersburg Thursday. "If you went by the law of averages, you would think Gibbs would catch up to us. But we're approaching them as a brand new team."
Lakewood coach Dan Wright was impressed with the Gladiators' revamped style in Gibbs' win over East Lake.
"That was the best I've seen Gibbs play defensively," Wright said. "It's not easy beating a team three times in the same season. But we certainly know we are capable of winning."
Keswick, Shorecrest, SP Catholic win in A-10
SEMINOLE _ Keswick Christian and Shorecrest, the top two seeds in the Class A, District 10 boys basketball tournament, took convincing wins Thursday night and moved on to the semifinal round.
Keswick (29-4), host for the 14-team tournament, ran away with the game in the final quarter and routed ninth-seeded New Port Richey Christian 105-78.
Earlier, Shorecrest (19-5), behind 22 points by Roy Glaum, pounded 10th-seeded Clearwater St. Paul's 74-42.
In the other quarterfinals Thursday, No. 5 St. Petersburg Catholic (18-11) dumped Lakeside Christian 69-57, and No. 6 Bradenton Christian (12-9) got by Sarasota Christian 65-57.
Shorecrest and Bradenton Christian meet tonight at 6, and Keswick and St. Petersburg Catholic follow at 8.
Keswick's fast break and pressure defense proved to be too much for New Port Richey Christian (13-10), which committed 32 turnovers.
New Port Richey Christian, with Tommy Giles hitting three straight tries from three-point range, did manage to pull ahead for a brief period in the third quarter.
But Keswick converted several turnovers into fast-break baskets and gradually began to pull away. The Crusaders went on an 11-0 run in the final period.
Keswick was led by Chris Shankle's 27 points. Steve White had 23 and Nick VandeWalle 18.
"When we got in our full-court game, we got them (New Port Richey) in it," said Keswick coach Mike Wells. "We figure we're going to wear them down."
New Port Richey Christian was led by Shawn Goodman's 24 points.
In the win over St. Paul's, Shorecrest's Glaum hit for three three-point goals to fuel an 18-9 first quarter. The Chargers stretched their lead to 38-20 by halftime.
CCC trounces Tampa Catholic 88-67 in 2A-11
TAMPA _ Clearwater Central Catholic, behind Mike Pennie's 24 points, had no problem disposing of Tampa Catholic 88-67 Thursday night, in the opening round of the boys Class 2A, District 11 basketball tournament.
The Marauders will now play top-seeded Sarasota-Cardinal Mooney in the semifinals tonight at 8, on Tampa Catholic's home court. That game will be preceded by Palmetto taking on Sarasota Booker at 6.
Against the Crusaders, CCC opened up an early lead by relying heavily on Pennie's drives to the basket. Facing a lethargic Tampa Catholic offense, the Marauders were able to take a 32-21 lead by half-time, with Pennie accounting for half of their points.
The only real highlight for the Crusaders came when Eric Hayes fired in a 60-foot bomb at the half-time buzzer that nearly tore the net off going through. Hayes finished with 18, tops for Tampa Catholic.
In the second half, however CCC got it's offense moving, and opened up a 19-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
Henrik Gese and John Piemonte were the main men for the Marauders, as the two combined for 23 points in the last half, and ended up with 19 each.
"Tonight wasn't that tough, but tomorrow night will be," Pennie said. "But we beat (Cardinal Mooney) once this year, and if we play smart we should be able to do it again."
CCC upped it's record to 15-12 for the year, while the Crusaders finished up at 3-24.
_ Times correspondents Bill Gordon and Rob McGinty contributed to this report.