By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT vs. WIREGRASS RANCH
ENGLEWOOD — It may have been listed as just a holiday classic on the schedule.
But it felt more like a playoff game.
On a night that saw 44 combined free throws and two technical fouls, North Port High School got the best of Wiregrass Ranch with a 66-57 victory in the teams’ finale of the Ryan D. Provencher Holiday Shootout at Lemon Bay High School. The game saw both coaches bark at the referees, players do the same and even parents in the stands yelling at opposing players when they weren’t expressing their displeasure to the officials.
“That was not a December-like game. That felt more like a February-type game where each team played 100 percent and gave it everything they had,” North Port coach Ryan Power said. “Luckily, we came away with the win.”
Ben Via led the Bobcats with 21 points — which included a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer — while teammates Adam Cohen and Bryan O’Boyle combined for 24 points. It was a bounce back victory for North Port, which lost its first game of the shootout to Lake Highland Thursday night.
Back-to-back losses weren’t on North Port’s Christmas list.
“I told our guys last night if you lose this game you have to think about it all Christmas while your relatives are asking you how you’re doing and they came out and responded from the get-go,” Power said.
The game went back and forth in the first half as the teams exchanged leads six times. The sixth exchange was the last exchange of the night as the Bobcats (9-3) closed the first half on an 11-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead at the break.
After two free throws by O’Boyle pulled the Bobcats to within two points, Zach Babut nailed a 3-pointer to give North Port a 24-23 lead it never relinquished. Babut, who finished with eight points, provided some more energy on the next possession when he saved a loose ball from going out of bounds and immediately hit a jumper to extend the lead.
Via then finished off the run with a free throw and a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Bobcats a 30-23 lead at halftime.
“I need to start making more shots like that. That felt good,” Via said.
Via scored five more points in the third quarter, as the Bulls (6-5) never got closer than four points of the lead. The Bobcats took a 45-38 lead into the fourth and led by as many as 12 points in the final frame.
“We didn’t want to go into break on a two-game losing streak,” Via said.
Free throw shooting was the reason why they didn’t.
The Bobcats made 19 of their 26 foul shots in the game while the Bulls went just seven of 18 from the line. Most of North Port’s free throws came in the fourth quarter, where the team collectively went 13/17.
That disparity ultimately cost the Bulls, who were led by Daniel Biglow’s 19 points.
“The one thing when I took over the program from looking at film that we needed to work with was finishing the free throws and we’ve dedicated ourselves in practice to making them tired, game-like and then going to the free throw line and it’s good to see it executed here at the end,” Power said.
North Port returns to action next Wednesday in the Suncoast Holiday Tournament where it’ll face Riverview.
NORTH PORT 66, WIREGRASS RANCH 57
Wiregrass Ranch 13 10 15 19 — 57
North Port 14 16 15 21 — 66
Wiregrass Ranch (57): Daniel Biglow 19, Devin Wilson 10, Garcia 7, Howell 6, Williams 5, Rush 4, Miner 3, Asomba 2. Totals: 23(4) 7-18 57.
North Port (45): Ben Via 21, Adam Cohen 13, Bryan O’Boyle 10, Z. Babut 8, Oliver 5, Thieme 4, Baker 3, D. Babut 2. Totals: 21(5) 19-26 66.
LEMON BAY vs. LENNARD
At this time last year, Lemon Bay and Lennard High School were both one-win teams when they faced off in the Ryon Provencher Holiday Shootout.
The Manta Rays aren’t the same team anymore, and showed that by beating a Longhorn team which they had lost to last year, 66-63 Friday night to close out the RDP.
Keegan Wyman’s 21 points led Lemon Bay (7-4) in scoring, with Luke Morrill not far behind at 17 points.
Lennard (1-7) allowed the Manta Rays to score 44 points in the middle two quarters, as Lemon Bay used the fourth period to run out the clock. With the lead, Lemon Bay converted 10 of 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth.
Sophomore Martell Yale was called up from JV for the game, and made his impact with six points, three steals and a pair of blocks. Tyler Caron and Cade Huber each scored eight points. Hayden Wolff added six more.
LEMON BAY 66, LENNARD 63
Lennard 18 15 15 14 — 63
Lemon Bay 10 21 23 13 — 66