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Spartans stun Charlotte

Lakewood shuts down its opponent to move onto the state semifinals.

By JOE SMITH
Published February 25, 2007


PUNTA GORDA - Lakewood junior forward Mike Morrison soared to block a 3-point shot, nearly swallowing a Charlotte player whole.

The 6-foot-8 forward then raced for a thunderous, two-handed dunk before pumping his first to the standing Spartans contingent.

"We got 'em!" one fan yelled.

Lakewood's pressure defense and relentless rebounding helped the Spartans steamroll Charlotte, 83-53, in the region final, stunning the sellout crowd of 1,300 and stamping their ticket to the state semifinals.

Lakewood 28-2 advances to the state semifinals Wednesday at 7 in Lakeland, where the Spartans will take on Robert E. Lee, 61-55 winners over Wolfson.

To get there, Lakewood withstood the Tarpons game-opening 10-0 run before clamping down defensively, frustrating Charlotte into more technical fouls (2) than field goals (1) in the second quarter - when the Spartans took the lead for good.

"I felt like we were coming apart," Charlotte senior forward Ronnie Phillips said. "We were panicking. They weren't. That was the difference.

The win was a team effort. There was senior guard Anthony Dorsey (23 points), who hit two huge 3-pointers in the first few minutes to keep the Spartans afloat.

There were forwards such as Morrison (12 points, five rebounds) and Ronnie Lane (7 points, 9 rebounds) who helped the Spartans own the key - Lakewood racked up 20 offensive rebounds.

Lakewood senior forward Rashon Stewart came off the bench to provide a spark, scoring six points in a 1-minute span in the third to bring the 300-plus Spartans fans in attendance to their feet.

"There was a point during a run where it felt like it we were the home team," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said.

While Charlotte (25-7) was forcing outside shots, flustered by Lakewood's half-court traps, Spartans senior Ed Nixon (20 points) calmly sealed the deal with 11 fourth-quarter points.

"I want a (state title) so bad," Morrison said. "We've still got some work to do."

Joe Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8129 or joesmith@sptimes.com