Boys basketball: St. Petersburg returns to playoff form with win over Martin County — Jan. 9

St. Petersburg, which made the Class 5A state final in boys basketball last season, was looking to rebound after losing three straight games at the Sun Bash Tournament two weeks ago. 

The Green Devils did it with their biggest win of the season, going on the road to knock off defending 6A state champion Stuart Martin County 72-71. 

It was the Tigers’ first loss at home since January of 2020. 

“That was a definite boost for us,” St. Petersburg coach Chris Blackwell said of the Martin County win. “But even though we had lost a few, we still felt like we could go there and play well.”

There was reason for the Green Devils to be confident. Two of their three losses at the Sun Bash Tampa tournament – against Northshore (La.) and Fort Myers Gateway Charter – were by a combined seven points. 

Better still, St. Petersburg is getting healthy at the right time. 

Kenyon Clarkson Jr., a 6-foot-3 guard, returned this week after tearing a ligament in his ankle in a preseason contest against Tampa Catholic. 

“Having Kenyon back makes a big difference for us,” Blackwell said. “He’s one of our better defenders.”

Clarkson Jr., whose cousin is former Green Devil star and current USF player Serrel Smith, helped control Martin County’s high-flying offense. 

But there were plenty of other key contributions. 

Tristan Gross scored a team-high 30 points and had 10 rebounds. Dylan Kramer was dominant inside, finishing with 21 rebounds and 19 points. Quez Curry had 12 points, eight assists and five steals. And Sam Ducksworth added nine points and eight rebounds. 

“For us, the win shows we can go on the road and beat a quality opponent,” Blackwell said. “That’s something you need once you get into the playoffs.”

St. Petersburg, currently fourth in Class 5A, Region 3 in the initial FHSAA rankings, likely will move up aftter the win over Martin County. And the Green Devils could vault even higher with a win over East Lake at the St. Petersburg Shootout.