Boys basketball: Gibbs lets lead slip away in 4A state semifinal loss

Gibbs was not given much of a chance in Thursday’s Class 4A state semifinal game against Jacksonville Andrew Jackson.

None of the current players were on the roster the last time the Gladiators made it to Lakeland in 2015. Gibbs has just one senior and two freshmen among its starters. 

There was too much inexperience, too much gap between the last semifinal trip to compete against Jacksonville Andrew Jackson, which was making its second straight semifinal appearance.

Too bad. 

Gibbs ignored the prognosticators. For more than three quarters, the Gladiators kept applying the pressure on defense. They kept hitting free throws. 

And they stood toe-to-toe with one of the state’s powerhouse programs. 

After the first quarter, Gibbs led 11-5 and went into the half ahead 22-20. 

In fact, the Gladiators held a 41-39 with 4:01 left in regulation. 

Then the lead – and the game – slipped away. 

Andrew Jackson’s experience playing on basketball’s biggest stage paid off when it mattered most. The Tigers closed out the game on a 19-4 run to win 58-45. 

Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives for Gibbs. 

The Gladiators gained confidence it can compete with anyone in the state and they have four starters returning next season. 

Jacob Daniels, a freshman, led Gibbs in scoring with 21 points. Jacquez Day, the lone senior, finished with 14 rebounds.