The Green Devils of St. Pete held a two-day, eight game pre-season event after Thanksgiving. We headed down there Saturday to catch the final day’s action. From the very first game, the attendance was good and by the night cap for the home team, the gym was almost full.
Tampa Sickles vs. Leesburg
Two of last year’s state champions squared off in the first game as Class 8A champ Sickles took on 6A winner Leesburg. While the Yellow Jackets of Leesburg return four of five starters and several bench contributors, Sickles is in more of a reload mode, not just with new players but with a new coach. However, don’t tell them that.
This was a close contest throughout the first quarter. Sickles held a one-point lead midway thru but when the second period rolled around, it was Leesburg that was up one, 16-15. The second quarter was more of the same. Leesburg led until Sickles tied the score at 29 with 2:30 left to play until the half. A series of lead changes ensued until the half-time horn sounded with Leesburg up 32-31.
In the third period, Leesburg stretched its lead out to 41-36 with just over five minutes to play, forcing a Sickles time out. The magic words must have been said because by the end of the third it was a tie game at 48. Midway thru the fourth, Leesburg held a slim one-point lead at 55-54. That would be the Yellow Jackets’ last, as Sickles finished the game with a 13-4 run. Sickles’ size took control inside and Leesburg failed to connect on shots from the perimeter. Sickles would go across the bay with a tough 67-59 win.
Denari Garrett, a 6’6 senior, led the way with 26 points, showing a diverse inside/out game. Bryce Workman, another 6’6 senior, carried the load inside with 16 points and 12 rebounds. 5’11 senior Tahj Lalanne added ten points.
For Leesburg, 6’2 junior Lance Irving paced them with 23 points. 6’2 Senior Cordrayius Graham tallied 16 points while 6’5 senior Keon Ellis struggled with foul trouble to finish with nine points.
Tampa Berkeley Prep vs. St. Petersburg Lakewood
Two proud programs from the opposite sides of Tampa Bay met in Saturday’s second game. Berkeley Prep, with former Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia, brought in a bit more seasoned team as Lakewood is relying on several underclassmen to carry the load.
The first quarter was played as if both team were still suffering from a Thanksgiving overdose of tryptophan as the score was only 7-5 after eight minutes. The second contained much of the same as with three minutes left in the half, Berkeley Prep led by one at 14-13. From there, BP would outscore the Spartans 11-5 and take a seven point, 25-18 lead into the locker room at the break.
Berkeley continued its run in the third quarter and pushed their lead to double-digits midway thru the period. With the fourth left to play, Lakewood was down ten at 35-25. They would never get the deficit into single digits and Berkeley Prep closed out the game to win by fifteen, 50-35.
Zack Mathis, a 6’7 senior for BP, led the way with 16 points, the only player to reach double figures. However, both 6’8 junior Chase Barrs and 5’11 senior Kaleb Karnes each tallied nine points.
Lakewood was led by the inside play of 6’8 sophomore Jamille Reynolds with 15 points while 6’5 junior Jalen White contributed 10 points.
Tampa Jesuit vs. Gulfport Boca Ciega
Jesuit jumped out to a 7-0 lead out of the gate to put Boca Ciega on its heels. They recovered to make it a 12-9 game after one quarter of play. It looked like Jesuit would land a knock-out punch in the second quarter as they led 21-11 with 5:30 remaining in the half. Boca Ciega showed some toughness, getting back to within a point at 23-22 with one minute to go in the second quarter. Jesuit manage to finish that one minute with a 7-0 run to make it a 29-22 game at the half.
Boca Ciega would stay within reach the entire third quarter. Only down eight at 42-34 heading into the final period, it looked like they might have a chance. That wasn’t to be as Jesuit pushed its margin to fifteen at 51-36 with only three minutes remaining in the contest. Boca Ciega simply didn’t have enough time or firepower to make a comeback and fell by the final score of 53-40.
Jesuit was led by 6’0 senior Thierry Moliere with 17 points while 5’8 senior Ryan Radke tossed in four three-pointers on his way to 14 points.
Pacing Boca Ciega was 6’5 senior Jerrada Briscoe with 12 points while 6’2 Alonzo Carter and 6’1 A.J. Boyd each contributed ten points.
St. Pete Gibbs vs. St. Pete HS
This was to be the highlight of the event. Gibbs has a solid backcourt in the form of 6’2 senior David Pierce (Coastal Carolina), who averaged over 23 points a game last year and 5’10 sophomore Tre Gilliam. St. Pete has arguably one of the top backcourts in the state in 6’2 senior Serrell Smith (Ole Miss) and 6’0 Ty Strickland. Sadly, Pierce tweaked his knee and did not dress for the game. He should be cleared to play in the next week or two.
Without their leader, Gibbs put up a good fight. Down just six at 15-9 after one quarter of play, Gibbs looked like it would keep the game competitive. That was until St. Pete outscored Gibbs 20-10 in the second period, pushing them to a 35-19 lead at the half.
Gibbs never fully recovered. They closed the margin to thirteen heading into the final quarter but they just didn’t have enough to contend with Smith and Strickland. The host Green Devils would go on to win comfortably, 75-54.
Smith led all scorers with 29 points, 11 from the free throw line. Strickland chipped in 16 points for the victors.
Gilliam of Gibbs did all he could, tossing in 23 points. Deonte Brooks added 11 points while Marcus Lloyd added 13 points.