By Gary Grown, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — The North Port High School boys basketball team took advantage of a fast start, then held off a late Cardinal Mooney rally for a 56-48 victory Tuesday night.
North Port (2-1) got a balanced attack in taking the victory. Zach Babut and Brandon Graff both scored 11 points to lead the Bobcats. Cardinal Mooney (1-3) trailed most of the game but cut the Bobcats’ lead to just three points (33-30) at the end of the third quarter.
But the Bobcat hung together and controlled the offensive boards in the final quarter, outscoring the visitors 23-18 in taking the victory. Ben Via grabbed an offensive rebound and put it in to give the Bobcats a 52-45 edge that basically closed the door on the Cougars. Gene Oliver scored all of his seven points in the final quarter for North Port as he helped the Bobcats’ fast break and defense.
“Our first two games were close,” said North Port coach Ryan Power. “We learned from that and held together as we have several seniors and that helped us.”
The game saw the Bobcats get their transition game going in the first quarter as they led 18-8 at the end of the period. But the pesky Cougars came fighting back in the second quarter. North Port slowed the game down, holding onto the ball for about two minutes late in the second quarter.
“We did that to bring them out of their zone,” Power said. “Plus, we were getting a little bit sloppy.”
North Port led 22-15 at halftime. The pace picked up a bit in the third period as the visitors found their shooting eye. Derek Arnel scored seven of his 14 points in the third quarter to spark the Cougars’ comeback as they outscored the Bobcats 15-11.
Kendall Johnson added 11 points for Cardinal Mooney. The Bobcats distributed the ball around well and it showed in the scoring column. Besides Babut and Graff, Via and Bryson Thieme both added 10 points for the winners.
The Bobcats got most of their scoring on inside shots and off offensive rebounds. North Port only had one 3-pointer while the Cougars made four.
North Port will take on host Port Charlotte at 7 p.m. Thursday in a non-district game.
NORTH PORT 56, CARDINAL MOONEY 48
C. Mooney 8 7 15 18 – 48
North Port 18 4 11 23 – 56
Cardinal Mooney (48): Derek Arnel 14, Kendell Johnson 11, McNeil 9, Juan 6. Sacco 2, Krupa 3, Varone 3. Totals: 16(4) 12-17, 48.
North Port (56): Brandon Graff 11, Zach Babut 11, Ben Via 10, Bryson Thieme 10, Oliver 7, Cohen 4, Babut 3. Totals: 22(1) 12-19, 56.