By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 20, 2001
FORT MYERS -- Lakewood didn't burst onto the national scene quite as coach Dan Wright had hoped, but Tuesday at the City of Palms Classic, the Spartans made an impressive appearance.
Playing against Los Angeles Westchester, the No. 1-ranked team in the country according to USA Today, the Spartans gave the tournament its first close game and nearly picked up one of the biggest wins in school history before falling 73-66 at Bishop Verot High. Lakewood, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, finally met a team that could match and exceed its vaunted athleticism.
But the Spartans were able to match Westchester basket for basket, and with 5 minutes remaining the score was tied at 62 and Lakewood had a chance to take the lead.
But a turnover, one of 18 that plagued Lakewood, gave the ball back to Westchester (6-0) and it took the lead for good on a basket by Trevor Ariza.
"We had an opportunity to win the game," Wright said. "I was really disappointed with our inability to take care of the ball. They were big and long and just did a good job of taking our guards out of play."
Ariza, the 16th-best junior in the land according to the Sporting News, led his team with 16 points and single-handedly stunted Lakewood's late push with four offensive rebounds off missed free throws in the final 3 minutes. He finished with eight rebounds as Westchester pounded Lakewood on the boards with a 36-15 edge, including a 21-5 advantage offensively.
Marcus Morrison scored 26 points to pace Lakewood, but only scored two baskets in the second half as Arizona signee Hassan Adams turned up the defense.
Morrison was brilliant with an alley-oop dunk to start the game and a couple of 3-pointers, but was clearly winded late in the first half and was not a factor down the stretch before fouling out.