tampabay.com

Flashy Spartans into final

By JOE SMITH
Published March 1, 2007


LAKELAND - Double-teamed and nearly bumped out of bounds, Ed Nixon improvised.

The Lakewood senior guard slyly split the Jacksonville Robert E. Lee defenders, slashed to the hoop and found guard Sean Johnson alone for a layup before the halftime buzzer.

With his typical trickery, Nixon simply put on a show Wednesday night. Saddled with two early fouls, he scored a game-high 28 points to carry the Spartans to a 57-44 win over Lee in the semifinals at the Lakeland Center.

Nixon "is one of the best guards in the state," Lee coach Stephen Jenkins said. "He made some huge shots."

In Friday's state championship at 7 p.m., the Spartans (29-2) will face another one of the state's top guards, Lake Howell senior Nick Calathes (28 ppg), a Florida-bound star and reigning Mr. Basketball.

Lakewood will play for its third state title in six years; to do so, it will have to beat a Silverhawks (28-3) team that has beaten every Florida opponent by at least 11 points.

"I don't care who we play," Nixon said. "I just want to win."

Nixon showed his desire in a first-quarter flurry. The 6-foot-3 guard scored the first two baskets, then drove and dished to Mike Morrison for a thunderous two-handed jam.

Seventy seconds in, Lakewood was up 8-0 and Lee was shell-shocked. That soon changed, however, as junior guard Ronnnie Weston heated up, scoring 10 of his team-high 18 in the second quarter.

With starters Morrison, Anthony Dorsey and Ronnie Lane on the bench with two fouls, Nixon stole the show.

He scored in transition. He sank pull-up 3-pointers. He kept Lakewood afloat, trailing just 37-35 after three quarters.

That's when Dorsey (14 points) joined the party. The 6-foot-3 senior scored three quick baskets, including a dunk, then found Nixon in transition for a layup. In the final six minutes, Lakewood used a 2-3 zone and outscored a cold-shooting Lee 15-2.

"The fourth quarter," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said, "was ours."

Lakewood 57

Lee 44