'Battle-tested' Lakewood benefits from experience

By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
Published February 24, 2008

PINELLAS PARK - During Lakewood's 12-0 run to start the second half, a Spartans fan held up a sign that probably said it best: Battle tested.

While the Patriots had brought prestige to the Pinellas Park program over the past few years, including the most wins in school history, a PCAC title and a district championship, they hadn't been to the state semifinals.

The Spartans have a long list of accomplishments and, at the end of the 60-34 win over the Patriots, the "been there, done that" factor could be heard by many.

"Having had the experience of playing in a state final and been in these types of games before was huge," Lakewood guard Reggie Reed said. "Basically, we knew what we had to do to come in here and get the job done, and we executed on both ends tonight like championship teams do.

"When we play Lakewood basketball like that, then we have a lot of confidence and the sky's the limit."

Lakewood's defense and Pinellas Park's shooting woes were keys to the rout by the Spartans.

Pinellas Park senior Cam Carden, who entered the game averaging 16.4 ppg, struggled to score most of the game. He was held to 3-of-17 shooting, including 1-for-6 from behind the arc.

"They were doing a real good job on stepping out on the screens and putting pressure on the guards," said Carden, who finished with seven points.

And the Spartans defense was instrumental in putting the game away by the end of the third quarter.

"We worked hard all week, and we knew what we had to do to win," said Lakewood coach Dan Wright, who broke out a new pair of Air Jordans for the game. "That being said, I wanted to come out and be casual (Saturday night) so the boys could be relaxed in this type of atmosphere.

"But I knew they'd play all right because they'd been there before and knew what to do."