ST. PETERSBURG — For four quarters, Jamille Reynolds was shoved, grabbed, clutched and prodded. It did not matter.
The Lakewood power forward showed a remarkable nose for the ball. He tussled for rebounds, swatted shots and made life miserable for every East Lake player who entered the paint.
Entering Friday’s Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game, the Spartans knew they had a considerable height advantage with the 6-foot-9 Reynolds manning the middle. After all, the Eagles have no player on the roster taller than 6-4.
The size difference paid off from the start. Despite drawing plenty of attention, Reynolds was able to make buckets. That also left open others, such as Oteman Delancy and TJ Tampa, who hit long-range shots. Showing its balance, Lakewood jumped out to a comfortable lead and never trailed in a 57-50 victory.
It all started with Reynolds.
“Jamille is the most dominant player to come around here in a long time, if ever,” Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence said. “That was our objective. Let Jamille control the lane and not let any of the other guys for East Lake have good games.”
Reynolds, a UCF signee, scored twice within the first two minutes. Then others got involved, mainly Tampa, who scored on consecutive dunks to give the Spartans a 16-7 lead in the first quarter.
The advantage eventually grew to 29-12. Soon after, Reynolds went to the bench to rest, partly because of foul trouble. The Eagles (21-3) took advantage and closed out the first half on a 9-0 run to cut it to 29-21.
In the third quarter, East Lake got it to 34-31 after a 3-pointer by Dean Gabrelcik. The Eagles could not get any closer.
Lakewood (21-4) got back into a rhythm with Reynolds working inside, and Tampa and Delancy continuing to make shots from the perimeter. Tampa finished with 17 points, Delancy added 15 and Reynolds finished with 13.
“This feels good to go out and show that we were best in the county,” Reynolds said.
East Lake missed out on repeating as conference champion, one of its goals this season. Dionte Blanch led all scorers with 26 points.
“(Lakewood) just had a better game plan,” Eagles coach Britt Taylor said. “They sat (Reynolds) down there and we didn’t have an answer for him. Our kids are always going to battle and fight back. I just didn’t put them in a good enough position to be successful.”