ST. PETERSBURG--The Gibbs Gladiators were looking to hold on to bragging rights over their district rival Lakewood Spartans.

The Gladiators would continue to hold the first place spot in 5A District 7 defeating the Spartans 55-52, pushing their winning streak to five games.

With a packed gym, fans and players were ready for a showdown. It’s this type of rivalry situation that Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said kept his players focused and concentrated on the job they have to do.

“This was definitely a big district and neighborhood game win for us tonight,” said Murphy. “How we approached winning was playing our type of basketball.  That involved putting pressure on them (Lakewood) in the first 32 minutes of the game and making plays on offense while keeping them in a decent tempo.”

They were even able to hold them below 60, which can be a difficult task against the Spartans.

“With Lakewood sometimes we could go into overtime but tonight we were able to keep them in the 50’s, which is a big plus.”

The Gladiators would start the game holding off the Spartans with a 16-7 lead just before the end of the first period. But the Spartans would answer back putting pressure on the Gladiators defense, halting their lead at 24-21 just before the end of the first half.

At the start of the third period, the Spartans were ready to take back the game. Right from the start, the game changed when Lakewood’s Anthony Lawrence nailed a 3-pointer, which tied the game at 24. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Gladiators would still hold at 40-31.

In the last period, the Spartans would take one last attempt to get the lead. Lakewood’s Michael Clark would nail a layup cutting the score to 53-52 with 44 seconds left. But Gibb’s Barry Brown extended the lead after nailing two foul shots.

Lakewood’s Jacobi Boykins would try for one last attempt at the basket, but Brown would steal it away running the clock down making the final score 55-52.

Although a great win tonight, for Murphy, it game showed the power that his team possesses on the court.

“They are always going to play their best even getting down to the wire that’s what you got to expect. We are going to take this season one step at a time and approach the next two games with the same mindset and play action.”

The Gibbs Gladiators (7-1) will host the Oldsmar Christian Eagles on Dec. 17 and the Lakewood Spartans (2-5) will face off against Wekiva Mustangs on Dec. 26.