By Nathan Cowan, Sun Correspondent
All season long the Venice High School girls basketball team has wondered what they’d look like at full strength.
Senior guard Bry Mamanna missed the first half of the season with an injured knee, and as she returned, sophomore guard Alexa Hann broke her finger on her shooting hand. On Tuesday night both players returned, and after falling behind early, the Indians rode a suffocating full court press to a 51-47 victory over the visiting Port Charlotte Pirates.
“It’s a great feeling to be back and finally playing,” Mamanna said. “It was hard sitting for six months but the knee feels strong and I wasn’t worried at all.”
“It was great for us to play together and we were happy to have Bry back,” Hann said. “As a senior she takes a lot of pressure off us young players and we can play better as a team.”
After a slow start to the game, the Pirates took an 11-8 lead on the strength of two three-pointers by Celia Baermann.
In the second quarter the Pirates put the clamps on the Indians, limiting them to four points as Port Charlotte outscored Venice 10-4 and took a 21-12 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Pirates spread the scoring around as four different players scored baskets.
The Pirates took control in the third quarter and extended their lead to 26-15 before Indians coach Jim Davis called a timeout. Venice came out in a full court press and scored the next 11 points in the game. Mamanna opened the run with a jump shot and Anna Featherson closed the run with two free throws.
“Coach told us to be more aggressive and to up the pressure,” Mamanna said. “We probably should have been playing that hard the whole game.”
Venice closed the gap before Port Charlotte closed the quarter with a 6-1 run to lead 32-27 going into the fourth quarter.
“We knew that if we kept pressing we could create turnovers,” Hann said. “We had to keep pushing to get a lead.”
In the fourth quarter, the Indians kept closing the gap before the Pirates would stop the run and keep Venice at arm’s length.
Miranda Hoffer scored six straight points for the Indians but Ashlyn Henderson kept the Pirates in the lead with two free throws. After fighting the entire quarter, Venice finally tied the game at 42 on a layup by Ta’Lee Howard. Neither team could get a good shot off in the final moments and the game went to overtime.
In overtime Henderson score all five points for the Pirates but the Indians kept pace as Hann scored a layup. After a block by Howard, Mamanna scored on a breakaway layup to get Venice within 47-46. The Indians shut the door at the free throw line as Featherson made two free throws and Hoffer made four of five to give Venice the win.
“We finally dug ourselves out of a hole,” Davis said. “Bry calmed us down and it helped all the players play better.”
Howard led Venice with 13 points and Hoffer scored 11. Hann and Mamanna both scored seven points.
“Ta’Lee (Howard) and Miranda (Hoffer) really stepped up for us,” Davis said. “We only had six turnovers in the second half and that is great for us.”
Venice hosts Lemon Bay on Friday night at the Teepee.
“That’s another game where we have a good chance of winning,” Davis said. “We’ve been progressing and our work is paying off. Now we need winning to be contagious.”