LAKELAND — Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil was realistic about her team's chances in Saturday afternoon's Class 6A state championship game against Jacksonville Ribault. Her team needed to play its best game of the season, and she even mentioned a little divine intervention wouldn't hurt either.
Just a few minutes into the game, however, it became clear that even Lakewood on its best day couldn't match up with the Trojans. By the end of the first quarter, the Spartans trailed by 22 points. They eventually lost 72-31 at the Lakeland Center.
It is the second straight state championship for Ribault (23-3). Rennia Davis, a 6-foot-2 guard committed to Tennessee, scored 26 points and had 15 rebounds to lead all players. Day'Neshia Banks, a 6-foot guard committed to Mississippi, had 18 points and nine rebounds. Ribault outrebounded Lakewood 45-18.
"They were bigger, they were stronger," Tunsil said. "I don't think they wanted it anymore than we did. There have been games in the past where I thought the other team wanted it more than we did, but we wanted it just as much as them. Sometimes you just have to yield to the fact that they are bigger and stronger."
Midway through the first quarter, Ribault jumped to an 8-1 lead that included three straight baskets by Banks. The lead grew to 19-2 when Davis heated up with a 3-point shot and a layup.
It wasn't until 1:38 left in the first that the Spartans (23-5) scored their first field goal on a Toi Smith layup. By the end of the first, Lakewood trailed 26-4. The Spartans made only one of seven shots in the quarter.
"The shots just didn't fall," Tunsil said. "We had some put backs that we just missed. We did come out more aggressive, but our shots just didn't fall."
Lakewood continued to struggle with the height of Davis and Banks. By halftime, Davis had 19 points and Banks 15. The Trojans grabbed 13 offensive rebounds at the half and finished with 27.
"On the boards they manhandled us," Tunsil said. "That was the ball game. "(Davis) is the real deal. She's everything that we thought she would be. She's going to be an asset to Tennessee. She's the truth."
The deficit was too wide for the Spartans to make a dent in the second half. By 3:45 in the third quarter, Ribault had a 60-25 lead and the rest of the game was played with a running clock.
Smith was a bright spot for Lakewood. The junior scored 14 points, had eight rebounds and went to the free-throw line 11 times. But the Spartans shot just 33.3 percent for the game.
"I think we deserved to be here and we earned it," Smith said. "We were ready to play but we just went up against a really good team."