TAMPA - Boca Ciega discovered Chamberlain is no Hillsborough County fluke, which the Pirates might have thought considering how Hillsborough County has struggled in the playoffs. (Four of five county teams lost Tuesday night).
"No, sir," said Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman, whose team fell 70-48 to the Chiefs. "They play like the 25-3 team that they are. They have a very, very good squad."
Still, Shuman believed Boca Ciega (20-7) had a chance after the first half ended 33-32. Doubts, however, started creeping in at the end of the third quarter as the Chiefs opened a 51-43 lead.
"We started turning the ball over and they took advantage," Shuman said. "We shut down (Chiefs top scorer James Devlin, who had 19 points in the first half), but then the rest of (Chamberlain's) players stepped up."
Though Devlin failed to score in the second half, Chamberlain opened a 60-45 lead early in the fourth, almost exclusively on layups off crisp assists.
"When we pass the ball like we did tonight we can be a pretty good team," Chamberlain coach Doug Aplin said. "These guys always play so hard and they just keep after it and after it, and tonight, they played just as hard, but they also played very well."
Three Chiefs - Devlin, Kylan Robinson (18 points) and Mo Lightburn (10) - scored in double figures with Robinson and Lightburn collecting all their points near the basket.
Shuman said Chamberlain's onslaught came so fast and furious it was almost out of control before his players knew what hit them.
"When a team scores 70 on us, then it's out of our league," Shuman said. "We need to keep the score in the 50s to have a chance. We can't get into a scoring match like that. It's just not our style."
Chamberlain moves on to play at Largo on Saturday night, a game Shuman, who has played Largo this season, believes the Chiefs can win.
"Oh, yes, (Chamberlain) is good enough," Shuman said. "They will have to go on the road, but from what I saw tonight they won't be intimidated. That should be a good game."
Largo outlasts Lakewood
LARGO - The combination of the new millennium and Lakewood haven't been kind to Largo coach Phil Price.
There was the 2000 region championship game. The 2001 district championship. The 2002 and 2005 Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship.
All Lakewood victories over the Packers. Not that Price could remember any of those Tuesday night after Largo finally turned the tide against Lakewood.
Behind 21 points from Nate Johnson, 17 from Mike Helm and the mistake-free performance of point guard Ben O'Donnell, the Packers advanced to the region championship with a 56-50 over the Spartans, last year's Class 4A champion.
"We knew we had a good team," said Johnson, "and we thought we were the better team this year."
Ranked No. 1 in the state, the Packers (26-2) won their 20th straight game. Their victory ends a streak of six straight region championship game appearances by the No. 4 Spartans (24-6).
Despite making just 2 of 16 shots in the third, Lakewood forged a tie heading into the fourth and briefly took a 40-38 lead.
Then Johnson took over, mostly by aggressive taking the ball to the basket. He made a free throw and missed his second attempt, but Alex Gerhard came up with the rebound. The ball got back to Johnson, who drained a 3-pointer to give Largo the lead for good at 42-40.
- JOHN C. COTEY, Times staff writer