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Lakewood wakes up just in time

A defensive stop and five points at the end of the third quarter spark the Spartans to a win over the No.1 team in Class 6A.

By JOHN C. COTEY and RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2001


Lakewood found one thing Wednesday afternoon that can slow it down: sleep.

Coach Dan Wright believes his team got too much of it Wednesday morning and almost paid for it. How else do you explain the Spartans' lackluster effort through three quarters of their showdown with Orlando Evans, the No. 1 team in the Class 6A state poll and No. 1 in the state, according to the iHigh.com all-classification poll?

Then again, how do you explain the Spartans sleepwalking through three quarters and still leading Evans, then exploding in the fourth quarter to put the Trojans away 69-60 at Boca Ciega in the opening round of Hooters Holiday Shootout?

The explanation from Wright: "We're just pretty good.

"We told the guys at halftime that as bad as we played, we were only behind by two. And if the team we knew showed up in the second half, we'd have no trouble. The No. 1 team in the state; we didn't play well, and we still win by nine points."

The Spartans, who went 3-1 last week at the City of Palms Classic -- with the only loss coming to USA Today No. 1 Los Angeles Westchester -- didn't truly show up in the second half until 5 seconds left in the third quarter.

By then, they had chipped away at Evans (10-1) and erased a 40-35 deficit.

Leading 47-45, Lakewood got the day's biggest play from its defense.

On an inbounds play after a turnover, Evans forward Larry Owens streaked uncovered toward the basket as a football-like pass hit him on the run.

As Owens went in for what appeared to be an easy layup, Marcus Morrison swooped in from behind and blocked the shot with 2.5 seconds left.

Evans tried to sub in USF-signee Yusef Baker. But he didn't check in, and the Trojans were called for a technical foul.

Kevin Dorsey made both free throws.

Lakewood then inbounded the ball to Morrison, who double-pumped on a 3-pointer from the corner that swished through at the buzzer for a 52-45 lead.

"That was really big," said Kory Crumbley, who hit two 3-pointers during the third quarter to keep Lakewood in the game. "He wasn't really playing hard in the first half, but that woke him up."

To that point, Morrison hadn't made a basket and spent as much time on the bench as on the floor. But he produced two spectacular plays during the fourth quarter -- one a steal, cross-over dribble and jam -- to finish with 10 points.

Dorsey scored a game-high 22 points to pace the Spartans (11-1), who advanced to today's quarterfinal against Pace, a winner over Northeast.

The Spartans also stayed on course for a matchup in the final against Lakeland Kathleen or Largo.

Largo (12-0) won 79-57 over Hialeah Champagnat Catholic. Alvin Gunter and Billy McDade scored 16 points, and Mike O'Donnell added 15.

The Packers, No. 1 in 5A, started the second half with a 13-0 burst to extend their 30-28 lead and cruised. Kathleen, No. 1 in 4A (Lakewood is No.2), edged Clearwater 67-65.

Kathleen is one game closer to a rematch with Lakewood, but not before getting a scare from the Tornadoes.

The Red Devils (12-3) pulled away near the end of the first half and led 39-30 at the break. That lead remained steady through most of the third quarter.

But Clearwater hung around and made a surge late in the game. Clearwater guard Kyle Franklin, who was the Tornadoes' top scorer with 22 points, hit two straight three-pointers with less than three minutes left to make it 59-59.

But Kathleen's full-court press caused three turnovers, and the Red Devils hit four consecutive free throws to pull away for good.

Kathleen was led by Rashad Anderson's 30 points.

"We did all right, but we can play better," Anderson said. "Personally, I could have scored more, but it doesn't matter if I get 30 or 40 or two as long as we win. I just want to advance."

Kathleen plays at 4 p.m. today against Shaker Heights (Ohio). Clearwater plays Plant at noon in a losers' bracket game.

Clearwater (5-5) came close to being the tournament's biggest spoiler.

"Moral victories are nice, but ... ," Clearwater coach Rudy Coffin said. "We made a late run, which was nice. But we did some little things wrong.

"If you hit a few free throws, you make one shot, you don't have one turnover. Those things killed us."

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