After a 12-year wait, the Palm Beach Lakes boys basketball team is returning to Lakeland.
Lavorris Givins scored a game-high 26 points, and Daiquan Wyatt added 13 to lead the Rams to a 70-53 victory against Hollywood-McArthur Friday night in a Class 8A regional final.
Palm Beach Lakes (25-3) earned a berth in next week’s state championships with the win — its third straight over a Broward County team in the regional playoffs.
The Rams haven’t played in the state tournament since 2005, when they finished runner-up to Miami High in Class 6A.
Lakes will play St. John’s Creekside or Tallahassee-Lincoln on Friday afternoon in the state semifinals. That winner advances to the state championship game Saturday.
“It feels real good,” Givins said of earning a state tournament berth. “I’ve waited all my career just to get to Lakeland, and now we’re finally going there.”
Both teams started slowly on offense, with turnovers hampering the Mustangs and poor shooting slowing the Rams.
McArthur (20-13) had eight turnovers in the first quarter, but Lakes was slow to take advantage.
A 7-2 Mustangs run put them up 12-8 with 2:37 left, but the Rams closed well. Givins keyed a late run to stake Palm Beach Lakes to a 17-14 first-quarter lead.
It was the Rams’ turn to run into turnover trouble in the second quarter, while they also struggled from the free-throw line.
But Givins continued to be a force for Lakes from the outside while Wyatt came up big inside, slamming down a thunderous dunk midway through the quarter that whipped up the home crowd.
Lakes closed the first half with a 33-29 edge, with Givins leading all scorers with 19 points.
The Rams broke the game open to start the second half, going on a 14-0 run to build a 47-29 lead.
The Mustangs didn’t score in the quarter until a Jamari Belvin free throw with 3:40 remaining.
A late McArthur run narrowed Lakes’ lead to 53-44 at the end of the quarter, and the Mustangs pulled within seven points early in the fourth quarter.
But Lakes regrouped behind Wyatt and Tyrese Mapp, who came up big with key points inside the paint and on defense.
“Everything was just mainly pressure defense and trying to keep them off the boards,” Rams coach Lorenzo Hands said. “The kids did a great job with that.”
Belvin led the Mustangs with 16 points, while Mapp finished with 11 for the Rams.