By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Cardinal Mooney High School led a couple of times Wednesday night, but never for very long.
That’s because Lauren Maheu always had an answer for Lemon Bay’s girls basketball team.
Maheu scored 13 points, including seven in the fourth quarter during a decisive 11-0 run, to lead the Manta Rays to 41-34 victory over the Cougars at home. Breanna Nelson added 10 points for Lemon Bay, which ended a two-game skid less than 24 hours after losing by 22 to Island Coast.
“We got just enough rebounds and just enough stops. It wasn’t a pretty game but we played well enough to win, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” Lemon Bay coach Mike Young said. “We got back late last night, it was back-to-back games and we had an early start so the kids were a little slow tonight. But we made some shots and the kids did a good job of making those free throws there and running the clock out.
Lemon Bay (5-3) scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter after Cardinal Mooney (2-7) briefly took a 32-30 lead with 4:57 remaining thanks to a 3-pointer by Jacqueline Kulle, who made two from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 15 points. But Maheu answered Kulle’s triple with one of her own to put the Manta Rays back in front before Nelson came away with a steal and a layup — all while getting fouled — for a 35-32 Lemon Bay.
Nelson hit the and-1 free throw and Maheu followed with back-to-back baskets to push the lead to eight with less than two minutes to go.
“For the past couple of games my coach has been really stressing that I take a little bit of control and try and get more shots in because I tend just pass instead,” said Maheu, who made three 3-pointers and also had five assists and five rebounds. “I think in this game my shot was on a little bit so I was pleased.”
Another free throw by Nelson put the Manta Rays up 41-32 before a pair of free throws by Kate Mullen ended the run for the game’s final points. The Cougars went the final 4:57 of the game without a field goal and had their offense derailed when Kulle left with a hand injury during Lemon Bay’s decisive run.
But Cardinal Mooney just didn’t have an answer for Maheu, who responded after watching her team blow an 11-point lead in the third quarter.
“We’ve been working with her an awful lot and trying to get her to control the game,” Young said. “Play the point guard position, have confidence and lead the team on the court — all the things a point guard should do — and she’s working on it. Her personality is not an overzealous personality but I’ve told her she can be that kid and she made some big shots there.”
Lemon Bay led for a majority of the night and took a 12-7 lead into the second quarter. Cardinal Mooney began the second on a 6-0 to briefly take a 13-12 lead, but Dominique Mamalis responded with two straight field goals for Lemon Bay before Maheu hit two 3-pointers to finish off a 10-0 run for the Manta Rays heading into halftime.
The Manta Rays took their biggest lead of the game at 28-17 in the third quarter on a bucket by Francesca Gallucci, who finished with six points, 13 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. The Cougars responded with a 9-0 run, including four points by Gulle, before Gallucci hit a jumper to put Lemon Bay up 30-26 at the end of the third quarter.
LEMON BAY 41, CARDINAL MOONEY 34
Cardinal Mooney 7 6 13 8 — 34
Lemon Bay 12 10 8 11 — 46
Cardinal Mooney (34): Jacqueline Kulle 15, Beckham 4, Reyes 4, Roth 4, Crager 3, Dramis 2, Mullen 2. Totals: 13 (3) 5-12-34.
Lemon Bay (41): Lauren Maheu 13, Breanna Nelson 10, Gallucci 6, Mamalis 4, Carley 3, Stevens 3, McGraw 2. Totals: 17 (5) 2-5-41.