By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Lemon Bay boys basketball coach Sean Huber made a promise to himself back when he was an assistant.
Huber said he didn’t want his teams to travel during the holidays, and he’s kept that promise.
The Manta Rays are hosting the third annual Ryon D. Provencher holiday shootout, which begins a two-day run today with seven games.
“It started as somewhat of a selfish thing,” Huber said Wednesday. “We were always traveling at Christmas time to other events, and the kids and my parents were sort of like ‘can’t we stay home at Christmastime?’”
Port Charlotte and North Port will join the Manta Rays in the 16-team event.
The RDP shootout wasn’t kind to area teams a year ago, with the Manta Rays, Pirates and Charlotte combining to go 1-5 over the two days, with the lone win coming from the Tarpons.
Things should be better for them this time around, with the local teams improved from last year.
Lemon Bay went 0-2 in its own shootout in 2015, with a pair of losses against Lennard and Plant City. The game against Lennard — a 65-60 loss — can be avenged this year on the second night. The teams will play the shootout’s finale at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Last year’s battle between the two matched a pair of one-win squads, as the Manta Rays were 1-11. The Manta Rays already have won five of nine games this season, while the Longhorns are again a one-victory program.
“The biggest thing for us, no matter who we play, whether it’s Lennard or the Miami Heat, we just try to get better every week,” Huber said.
For Port Charlotte (8-1 in 2016), their two losses last year came against Piper and St. John Neumann. That loss against Piper, was a tough overtime defeat for Port Charlotte, where the Bengals (8-1 in 2016) tied the game with 0.4 seconds remaining in regulation before going on to a 46-44 victory in the extra period.
In addition to our three area teams, others in the field are South Fort Myers, Piper, Lennard, Countryside, Tarpon Springs, Labelle, Lake Highland, Evans, Fort Pierce Central, Naples. Wiregrass Ranch and Lehigh.
Tarpons Springs and Naples will tip off the shootout at 4 p.m. today. Piper and Countryside start things at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Teams will be using the two gymnasiums at Lemon Bay to play the 15 total games.