By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
SARASOTA — After two close losses in the first two rounds of the Suncoast Holiday Classic, North Port took out its frustrations on Cardinal Mooney Friday by pounding the Cougars, 69-31, in a consolation round game.
The Bobcats made sure there would be no close finish on this day by scoring the first 15 points of the game. It wasn’t until 40 seconds remained in the first quarter that Mooney’s Harper Juall hit a 3-pointer to break the drought.
However, North Port’s Eric Baker answered with a triple to give the Bobcats a 18-3 cushion at the end of the quarter.
“We didn’t really rely on the jump shot. We got some layups, and defensively, we didn’t allow anything easy and we didn’t give up any offensive rebounds,” Bobcats coach Ryan Power said. “That was one of our main focuses going into the game.”
North Port continued to pour it on in the second quarter, extending the lead to 41-14 at halftime. The Bobcats (8-5) spread the wealth around as seven different players scored at least four points apiece in the first half.
The balanced scoring continued in the third quarter as North Port ran out to a 53-21 lead before the Cougars closed it to 55-26 at the end of the period. But a foul line jumper by reserve Aaron Dismukes midway through the fourth quarter gave the Bobcats a 64-29 cushion and triggered a running clock for the rest of the contest.
“It was good to see all the guys get on the court and get a run in,” said Power, who used all 13 of his players. “They actually went out there and played some solid defense and executed on offense.”
Ten players found the scoring column for the Bobcats, led by Baker with 10 points. Zach Babut, Brandon Graff, Ben Via and Gene Oliver each finished with nine points. Graff had five assists and Babut added four as the Bobcats totaled 16 on 28 made baskets, while shooting a scintillating 65 percent for the game.
“The last-second games are fun and they’re learning experiences,” Power said. “We played this Mooney team earlier in the season and it was a tight game. It was huge to see us come out and execute and play the way that we did. Just get our confidence back
and show that the things that we’re learning this year are going to make us better in the long run.
“It was good for our mentality going into the new year to get back to Bobcat basketball. Play as a team, defend as a team, and end the tournament on a high note.”
North Port is back in action Wednesday at home against Lakewood Ranch.
NORTH PORT 69, CARDINAL MOONEY 31
Cardinal Mooney 3 11 12 5 – 31
North Port 18 23 14 14 – 69
Cardinal Mooney (31): Juall 8, McNeal 6, Pascarella 6, Krupa 3, Arnel 2, Johnson 2, Varone 2, Reblitz 2. Totals: 13(5), 0-1, 31
North Port (69): Eric Baker 10, Z. Babut 9, Graff 9, Via 9, Oliver 9, O’Boyle 7, Cohen 7, D. Babut 4, Ramirez 3, Dismukes 2. Totals: 28(3), 10-15, 69