Mistakes Deny Lake Wales First Trip to State Final Four
Sun. February 17, 2013 at 3:05 a.m. | By Rick Brown
By RICK BROWN | THE LEDGER
ST. PETERSBURG | It seemed like everything was going against the Lake Wales girls basketball team even prior to their Class 5A regional final contest Saturday against Lakewood.
Because of traffic, the Highlanders did not get to the contest until nine minutes before the game even started and once the game begun, turnovers and foul trouble hampered the team's offense.
Lake Wales was able to overcome all of that and had a chance to take the lead late in the game but the squad couldn't overcome turnovers in the end.
After Lake Wales pulled to within one at 39-38, Lakewood went on an 8-0 run and was able to hold off the Highlanders 47-42.
With the victory, the Spartans advanced to the state semifinals for the third consecutive season. They will face Tallahassee Rickards on Friday in the state semifinals.
Tianah Alvarado led all scorers with 15 points to lead the Spartans. Deja Swinton added 11 points.
"I'm extremely happy for my team," Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. "I think they put on their war clothes and came out battling. We were able to increase the lead in the fourth quarter and battle."
Lake Wales coach Demetrius Sanders struggled with how close the Highlanders got to reaching their first state Final Four in program history. The Highlanders' season ends at 18-12.
"The closeness of the game is going to sting," Sanders said. "I know we should have beaten them. Probably if they were at our school, it probably turns out differently. But getting here late and early foul trouble….
"We should be in Lakeland," he said. "We should be in Lakeland. She (Tunsil) knows it. They (pointing to his team) don't know it. They've got to know it. They don't yet understand what it takes to be champions."
Shayla Sewell led Lake Wales with 12 points but the forward didn't score in the fourth. Zada Williams had 10 after playing just a little more than four minutes in the first half with foul trouble.
With the Highlanders finding trouble scoring, Lakewood was able to open up a 26-17 lead at the half and upped it to 37-27 in the third.
But the Highlanders battled back.
A 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter pulled Lake Wales to within one, 39-38, with 4:53 remaining.
The Highlanders had two chances to take the lead but turned the ball over.
Then the Spartans went on their closing run to be able to hold off the Highlanders.
It's a loss that will stay with Sanders until next season.
"We just blew it," said Sanders, whose team committed 21 turnovers, six in the fourth quarter. "Turnovers killed us. Turnovers just killed us. We were rushing the darn ball instead of doing what got us back.
"I'm still trying to comprehend not being in Lakeland," he said. "We were that close from being in the Final Four. ... It's kind of bittersweet."