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BALANCE BOOSTS BOCA CIEGA

The Pirates use double-digit scoring from four players to hold off the Spartans for the title.

Boca Ciega's strength is in its numbers.

The Pirates have a plethora of playmakers who can lead the team in scoring on any given night.

In the district final, Boca Ciega had four - Tamara Taylor, Missy Schmidt, Latavia Dempsey and Tori Stephens - reach double figures in points. That balance was the difference in its 67-56 win over Lakewood.

It was third straight season the Pirates have beaten the Spartans in the district final. The Pirates also are in the playoffs for the 16th straight season, the third-longest streak in the state.

"We have a lot of scorers, and it helps because anyone can step up at any given time," Boca Ciega coach Will White said.

Early on, the Pirates (23-3) were in control, building a 23-12 lead with 6 minutes left in the second quarter. But Lakewood (18-9) came back, outscoring the Pirates 19-7 in the remainder of the half to go up 31-30.

The Spartans kept the lead (48-47) going into the fourth quarter. That's when the Pirates got things going.

Boca Ciega went on a 20-8 run to close out the game. Stephens finished with 18 points, followed by Taylor (16), Schmidt (14) and Dempsey (14).

Lakewood's Kerah Nelson scored a game-high 32 points.

"I was pleased with the way we were able to come back, " Spartans coach Necole Tunsil said. "But I was disappointed with the way we played in the fourth."

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4169.

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