By Bruce Robbins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — Imani Jones had 24 points and nine rebounds, leading Sarasota High School to a 72-50 victory over North Port in a girls basketball matchup Friday night.
The Bobcats stayed within striking distance for most of the game, but the Sailors ultimately had too many weapons as they answered every time North Port made a run in the second half.
“That’s a quality team. There’s a reason they’re rated number seven in Class 8A by MaxPreps,” North Port coach Dale Huffman said. “We just had problems matching up.”
The Bobcats’ Alexis Francavilla and Sarasota’s Madison Pack neutralized each other at center, and North Port’s Aryana Hough shut down the Sailors’ Ja’da Bennett for much of the first half.
“Aryana was holding Bennett down, and Jones stepped up and drilled us in the first half,” Huffman said. “We tried to put Aryana over on her to see if we could slow her down, and then we had a matchup problem with Bennett. We kept running back into the same thing.”
Bennett scored 13 of her 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Sailors pulled away.
“We hit a couple of dry spots,” Huffman said. “It was 17-16, then we didn’t score for about three minutes and they went on a 10-0 run. We crawled back in in the second half, but we hit another cold spurt and they ripped off another eight or 10. The first time we played them at their place we were down four points with three minutes to go. Then they started stalling on us and we had to foul them, and they hit all their foul shots because they shoot really well, and we just didn’t answer them. They’re just a good team.”
North Port got as close as 40-34 in the second half before Sarasota (14-1) ended the third quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 47-36 lead into the fourth period. It was 54-46 before Bennett and Jones led an 18-4 spurt to close out the game.
Francavilla led the Bobcats with 16 points while Emani Jefferson scored 14 and Hough added 13.
“We had some breaks here and there,” Sarasota coach Wade McVey said. “But I think we just wore them down at the end with the senior leadership and more experience. They’re a fairly young team, so (Huffman) is doing a good job with them.”
North Port (8-7) returns to district play Tuesday night at Gulf Coast.
SARASOTA 72, NORTH PORT 50
Sarasota 13 16 18 25 — 72
North Port 9 12 15 14 — 50
Sarasota (72): Imani Jones 24, Ja’da Bennett 17, Madison Pack 12, Josie LeBlanc 11, Kate Meyer 6, Kelly Brown 2. Totals: 28(5) 11-18, 72
North Port (70): Alexis Francavilla 16, Emani Jefferson 14, Aryana Hough 13, Blakeney 4, Nazario 3. Totals: 22(3) 3-9 50