By Rod Gipson
St. Petersburg Lakewood was close.
But in the end, Fort Lauderdale Dillard was a little too tall, a little too strong and a little too quick. Despite a five-point lead with five minutes left in the boys Class 5A state championship game, Lakewood succumbed to a late Dillard run, falling 61-55.
Dillard, benefiting from the inside muscle of 6-foot-7 forward Xiangdre Reliford, erased the Spartans’ fourth quarter 47-42 lead, going on an 11-0 run to seize control of the game and dash Lakewood’s championship dreams.
It didn’t help matters that Lakewood’s 6-9 center Michael Morrison fouled out shortly before the Dillard run commenced. Using its inside power, Dillard shooters worked their way to the free throw line 46 times, making 28 of those shots.
Reliford ended the contest with 21 points and nine rebounds on his way to being named the tournament Most Valuable Player. Dillard ends the season 29-2 while Lakewood finishes 29-3.
The Spartans were led by Shamon Cox’s 14 points and Reggie Reed’s 13 points. Morrison finished with six points and four points and six rebounds.
Around the Diamond
Despite his talents as one of the best shortstops in the state, Tampa Plant’s Mychal Givens has shown plenty of pitching prowess to start the 2008 season. Givens is 3-0 on the year with no earned runs allowed.
Against a solid Tampa Jesuit squad last week, Givens gave up six hits and one unearned run while striking out eight.
Givens, and other Plant pitchers, have gotten plenty of support. The Panthers are 8-0 and had one stretch this season where they beat quality teams Tampa Hillsborough, Tampa Jefferson and Tampa Gaither by a combined 26-4.
Catcher Jared Womack has been red-hot, leading Hillsborough County with a .786 batting average. He has 11 hits and 9 RBI. Also, Womack has already collected three 3-hit games this season.
Givens isn’t alone when it comes to standout pitching performances this season. Tampa Freedom’s Nathan Hourmes is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA while Valrico Bloomingdale’s Mike Launkitis is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA.
And Tampa Sickles’ Greg Cooke threw the Tampa Bay area's first no-hitter of the season Feb. 27.
Cooke was charged with one unearned run but gave up no hits in a complete game 5-1 win against New Port Richey Mitchell. Cooke (1-1 on the season) struck out nine and issued no walks.
Tampa Academy of the Holy Names girls basketball coach Casey Higgins has stepped down.
Higgins, who played college basketball at Kansas, became coach at Holy Names in 2003. In her five seasons, she guided the Jaguars to a 110-30 record, including a trip to the Class 3A Final Four in 2006-07. Holy Names also went to the state tournament in 2004-05.
Also, Tampa King football coach Earl Garcia III has resigned after one season at the school. The Lions were 2-8 in 2007. Garcia, son of longtime Tampa Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia, served as the Lions’ defensive coordinator for one season before taking over as the head coach.
Seffner Armwood senior point guard Adam Sollazzo has committed to East Tennessee State.
The 6-5 Sollazzo also was considering South Florida and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. During his just-concluded senior season, Sollazzo averaged 22 points and six rebounds per game. He helped the Hawks go 12-8 on the season, falling to Brandon in the opening round of the Class 5A, District 8 tournament.
Also, standout Tampa Jesuit soccer player Ali Van Gurp has committed to South Florida. Van Gurp, a forward, helped Jesuit advance to the Class 5A state final four. He scored 23 goals during the season and added 12 assists.