ST. PETERSBURG -- Floyd Watkins didn't think his team was lacking for confidence Wednesday night or intimidated by having to play the top seed in the Class 5A-District 10 boys basketball tournament on its home court.
Instead, he chalked up Southeast's 73-43 loss to St. Petersburg Gibbs to one simple fact:
"I just think they're good," Watkins, the Noles' head coach, said of the Gladiators, whose latest victory sends them to Friday's district final and next week's region tournament. "Sometimes people are just better than you, and I'm not ashamed to say that. We don't have any regrets -- we played as hard as we could (Wednesday)."
Fourth-seeded Southeast (17-10) showed moxie early, trimming its deficit to 11-10 with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the first quarter after the Gladiators opened the game with a 9-0 run. That's when the Seminoles' offense went cold. Southeast scored two baskets in the next 10 minutes, allowing Gibbs to go on an 11-2 run.
"We didn't necessarily respond well to the level of contact that was being allowed to take place," said Watkins, whose team was whistled for 18 fouls while Gibbs was called for eight. "We never made it into the foul bonus, as physical as that game was. ... After a while, I think it made a psychological effect on our kids. I think we tried to keep them mentally tough, but the shots we did have -- and we did have some opportunities -- we just didn't finish. And we didn't get as many offensive boards as we usually do."
Gibbs pulled away in the second half on the strength of Barry Brown, who scored 11 of his 18 points after the break, and 6-foot-11 forward Sajon Ford, who pulled in 11 rebounds to go with eight points.
Gibbs outrebounded Southeast 34-26.
Ronald Taylor had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Noles. Taylor was one of three sophomores in the starting lineup Wednesday for Southeast.
"We did learn a lot," Watkins said. "I think we have to make that jump, though. We play well locally, then we come up here and have some difficult times. ... We would have to played at least an A-minus game to at least give ourselves a chance to take this game and go over the top. I think it was in our capabilities, but I think everything had to go right.
"We gave it the best shot we had. I'm proud of our guys."
Watkins' biggest hope is that his young team learned something from sharing the floor with a seasoned squad such as Gibbs.
"It's a character-building thing to be able to come back from situations like that," he said. "But I think we probably need to make that jump next year where we come into games like this and not have to play perfect in order to stay on the court. ... Playing teams like this and being in one of the toughest districts in the state does help us because once you climb that mountain and get to the other side, you know you can accomplish some major things."