By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — The inability to put the ball in the basket at the opportune time cost the Lemon Bay girls basketball team, as DeSoto County took a 46-42 decision in a non-district contest Thursday night.
The Manta Rays cut a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to one with 1:24 to play, but that was a close as they got as the Bulldogs held on in the final seconds.
“We made a run to get back in the game and give ourselves a chance and we’ve just got to put the ball in the hole,” Lemon Bay coach Mike Young said. “We’ve got to find a way to score easier. We work really, really hard to get the ball in the basket and we give other teams easy run outs. We can’t turn the ball over and give teams easy run outs when we have to work like a dog to get a basket.”
The opening minutes of the game were a preview of things to come as DeSoto County’s Aleaha Richardson turned two steals into layups to give the Bulldogs a quick 4-0 lead.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Richardson in the early part of the second quarter increased the lead to 13-5, but Lemon Bay responded with seven straight points. Lauren Maheu later sank a layup just before the buzzer to send the Manta Rays into halftime with a 16-15 advantage.
DeSoto County (4-5) scored the first four points of the third quarter to go back on top, but a 3-pointer by Maheu with 4:35 to go in the period gave Lemon Bay a 21-19 lead. The Bulldogs outscored the Manta Rays 13-3 for the rest of the quarter and led 32-24 going into the fourth period.
DeSoto County increased its margin to 37-27 with 5:20 to play when Lemon Bay (7-4) began its comeback, led by Breanna Nelson. Two free throws by Nelson cut the lead to 41-40, but DeSoto County’s Tigeona Hatcher got loose for a layup to put the Bulldogs back on top by three. A putback by Kelsey Hansen with 20 seconds to go made it 44-42, but Hatcher followed with two foul shots with 16.9 seconds to play to clinch the victory for the Bulldogs.
“We made a run from ten down to make it a one point game with plenty of time to go,” Young said. “We’ve just got to start playing smarter and when we get the stops, we’ve got to rebound. We gave them too many second chance shots in the last four minutes when we were behind and eventually it led to a foul or a basket. In the fourth quarter when you’re playing catch-up, everyone notices the second and third chances, and giving them multiple shots cost us tonight.”
Nelson led the scoring for Lemon Bay with 17 points, including 10 of 12 from the foul line. The senior guard also had five rebounds and four steals. Maheu was the next highest scorer with 9 points.
Richardson took game honors with 20 points, while Hatcher added 14 for the Bulldogs.
“We had our shots. They just didn’t go in,” Young said. “If we make another layup or three-pointer, we’re having a different conversation, but we didn’t. So we’ve got to learn from our mistakes and come out tomorrow night and be ready to go at Port Charlotte.”
DESOTO COUNTY 46, LEMON BAY 42
DeSoto County 7 8 17 14 – 46
Lemon Bay 5 11 8 18 – 42
DeSoto County (46): Aleaha Richardson 20, Tigeona Hatcher 14, Luther 8, Walker 2, Esqueda 2. Totals: 17(3) 9-19 46
Lemon Bay (42): Breanna Nelson 17, Maheu 9, Hansen 8, Stevens 3, Carley 2, McGraw 2, Redmann 1. Totals: 13(3) 13-23 42