Four Lakewood basketball players recovering after St. Petersburg car crash

Six Lakewood students, including four basketball players, were involved in a car accident on Christmas night that left five in either serious or critical condition.

They were transported to Bayfront and All Children’s Hospital after the crash

In the last few days, they have shown significant improvement. Four of the students are already home. Two others are no longer in intensive care. 

“There were Angels looking after us,” Lakewood girls basketball coach Necole Tunsil said. 

Two of the players, Alahni Lovett and A’shiya Youngblood, were starters on the Spartans’ girls basketball team, Tunsil said. 

Youngblood was moved out of intensive care on Friday. Lovett is home recovering. 

“In my 19 years of coaching, nothing prepares you for this type of scene,” Tunsil said of the two-car accident, which happened at 38th Ave. and 31st St. S. “Usually, people look to me for some kind of solution. This is something I can’t fix. I might need to find some help or therapy myself.”

Jamarion Ross, a starter on the Spartans’ boys basketball team, also was in intensive care but is now recovering, coach Anthony Lawrence said. A junior varsity boys basketball player, Trent Richardson, was released the night of the crash without any serious injuries, Lawrence said.

Tunsil and Lawrence met with their teams Monday morning. The girls basketball team decided not to play during the Winter break.

But Lakewood’s girls will continue their season once they return from break on Jan. 9. 

“Obviously, it’ll be a lot different without Lovett or Youngblood,” Tunsil said of her Spartans, who are 8-3 this season. “The girls wanted to keep fighting, to keep playing for them. Those are their teammates. There’s a sisterhood there.

“This was their decision. For the first time in my life, I can’t say if I would do the same if it were based solely on me.”

Lawrence also left the decision to play up to the team. They wanted to keep playing.

“Meeting with the kids was toughest,” Lawrence said. “Just dealing with their emotions. This is something that is not in the coaches’ manual.” 

The Spartans lost their first game at the Mainland Christmas Shootmas Shootout, then bounced back to win their next two.

“You could tell they were still dealing with everything that was going on that first game,” Lawrence said. “There’s really nothing you can say. You can’t be mad. You just have to be understanding of the situation. 

“But as the news kept getting better with everyone involved in the crash, the guys started coming around more and more.”

The players involved in the crash still have months of rehabilitation ahead of them.

But they are healing.

“It’s a miracle,” Tunsil said. “They’re all still here with us. That’s what matters most. It could have been a lot worse.”