By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — North Port’s boys basketball team came out on fire Wednesday night, scoring on five of its first six possessions on the way to a double-digit lead at the end of one quarter against Lakewood Ranch.
The Mustangs, however, regrouped with the help of full-court press in the second half to pull out a 75-70 non-district win at The Cage.
Behind 13 points from Bryan O’Boyle, the Bobcats built their lead to as many as 18 in the second quarter before Lakewood Ranch began to cut into the deficit, which was 40-27 at intermission.
“It was our first home game in two or three weeks and we’ve been looking forward to this game since we saw our schedule,” Bobcats coach Ryan Power said. “You could tell from the start that we were ready and executing our game plan well. In the second half, some turnovers cost us, some fouls cost us, and late game execution is something we need to continue to focus on.”
North Port ran its offense to perfection in the first quarter, beating the Mustangs to the basket with many back door cuts that led to layups.
“They got a ton of back doors,” Lakewood Ranch coach Jeremy Schiller said. “We’ve been a very good defensive team, but I thought we were not engaged defensively at the start. I thought they ran really good stuff to counteract what we do and because of our lack of intensity, we weren’t able to get the stops we wanted.”
Much like last week, when Booker used a full court press to erase a 12-point halftime deficit against the Bobcats, the Mustangs press was too much for North Port in the second half. It didn’t help when O’Boyle and Ben Via each picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter and were forced to sit. The Bobcats still led, 55-47, at the end of the quarter, but momentum had clearly swung.
“We talked to them at the half and told them they were going to have to generate points using their defense,” Power said. “We didn’t really turn it over much in the third quarter, but we didn’t get many quality shots at the rim. Most of our stuff was jump shots. We have to do a better job of attacking the paint.”
Via and O’Boyle re-entered the game in the fourth quarter, but each fouled out and the Mustangs finally caught up at 62-62 on a 3-pointer by Sam Hester. Jack Kelley put Lakewood Ranch in front with a layup, but Bryson Thieme tied the game one last time by sinking two free throws with 2:30 to play.
The Mustangs then ran off nine straight points to put the game out of reach.
“Overall, I felt like they had a great game plan to attack us,” Schiller said. “I felt like we did too, but we didn’t do it until the end of the third and the fourth quarter when we really turned it up. We were more focused and created a lot of turnovers. Obviously, it feeds energy. You create turnovers, you get excited, you play a little harder and you make a few more plays.”
With O’Boyle saddled with foul trouble, Gene Oliver picked up the scoring slack for the Bobcats, scoring 14 of his game high 20 points in the second half. O’Boyle finished with 18 points and Adam Cohen also reached double figures with 12. Devin Twenty had 19 points for the Mustangs (11-2) while Hester chipped in with 16. O’Boyle also had nine rebounds and Zach Babut seven as the Bobcats (8-6) outrebounded the Mustangs, 39-29.
“If you look at every game, we’ve been right there,” Power said. “Our guys give us every ounce of hustle, heart, and effort that they have in them. At some point, these games are going to hopefully start turning around in our favor.”
LAKEWOOD RANCH 75, NORTH PORT 70
Lakewood Ranch 12 15 20 28 — 75: Devin Twenty 19, Sam Hester 16, Damien Gordon 13, Evan Spiller 11, Kelley 7, Muscara 5, Elliott 2, Lindblad 1, Georges 1. Totals: 25 (4) 21-36.
North Port 26 14 15 15 — 70: Gene Oliver 20, Bryan O’Boyle 18, Adam Cohen 12, Thieme 9, Graff 7, Z. Babut 4. Totals: 26 (5) 13-23.