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Lakewood shoots for 20 and a conference title

Before the season, as we sorted out who would be what in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference race, Lakewood was listed as a contender. Yeah, the Spartans would be good.

But this good?

Lakewood (22-1) shoots for its 20th straight win tonight with a home game against Boca Ciega. The Spartans also can clinch their second PCAC title in three years with a victory.

"I didn't think we would play as well as we did early in the year because of all the injuries," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said. "But Rhett Janssen, Marques Tampa and Cliff Latimore all picked up the slack and played extremely well.

"Defense has been the key for us. We are holding opponents to about 52 points a game and that is tough, especially in high school ball. All the kids know their roles and they don't try to do the spectacular and extra special on any given night. They understand their assignments and they play according to their abilities."

Lakewood has dominated play since a two-point loss to Dixie Hollins in December, a loss that Wright said shouldn't have happened, although it did help his Spartans realize they couldn't rely solely on Anthony Brown (and his 24.5-point average). Brown got into foul trouble in the Dixie game.

Lakewood is ranked No. 3 in the Class 3A state poll, but the coach isn't comfortable.

"We must improve and elevate our play now," Wright said. "We can't play at the same level and expect to get to the state tournament or even win against Boca Ciega."

What if? Should the Spartans win tonight, the title is theirs. If they lose, they could still win the title outright _ depending on how Dixie Hollins and Countryside do.

Here is the scenario: Lakewood is 12-1 in the PCAC, Dixie and Clearwater are both 10-2. In the event of ties in the conference, head-to-head competition is the tiebreaker. Lakewood beat Clearwater, Clearwater beat Dixie and Dixie beat Lakewood.

If Lakewood loses and both Clearwater (vs. Gibbs) and Dixie (vs. Countryside) win tonight, then there will be tri-champions.

If Lakewood and Clearwater lose and Dixie wins, the Rebels win the conference. If Lakewood and Dixie both lose and Clearwater wins, the Tornadoes take the title. And if all three teams lose, Lakewood wins the championship.

Keswick-Bayshore Christian: The Bay Conference has no such complicated scene. The winner of tonight's Bayshore Christian-at-Keswick game is the champion, period. The two teams won their respective divisions and meet for the first time this year. Bayshore is ranked No. 2 in the Class A state poll, Keswick is No. 4. Neither team has lost to Class A competition this year. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

District seedings: As expected, Keswick is the top seed in the Class A, District 10 tournament it is playing host to next week. The next six seeds in the 10-team tournament are (in order) Bradenton Christian, Northside Christian, Admiral Farragut, Sarasota Christian, St. Petersburg Catholic and Shorecrest.

In Class 4A, District 7, Northeast has clinched the top seed for the tournament with a 5-1 district record. District host Clearwater is seeded second (the Tornadoes also are 5-1, but the loss was to Northeast). Pinellas Park (0-6) is No. 7 among the seven teams.

Seeds three through six will be determined after tonight's game between Dunedin (2-3) and Seminole (3-2).

If Seminole wins, the the Warhawks will be seeded third, Countryside (3-3) fourth, Largo (2-4) fifth and Dunedin sixth. If Dunedin wins, the seeding order will be Dunedin, Seminole, Countryside and Largo.

Notes: With its win over East Lake on Tuesday, Clearwater (20-4) reached the 20-win mark for the fourth straight year. Largo's Pedro Redding has set a new school record for three-point shots (46). The Dunedin junior varsity team (17-0) shoots for an unbeaten season tonight against Seminole.

_ Times correspondent Wayne McKnight contributed to this report.

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