By Nathan Cowan, Sun Correspondent
The Venice Indians and Lemon Bay Manta Rays both knew what to expect from each other in Friday night’s matchup.
Jim Davis of Venice and Mike Young of Lemon Bay had led their programs for a few years and the teams are familiar with each other. In a game that saw momentum ebb and flow, the Indians made a late run in the fourth quarter to beat the Manta Rays 54-46.
The win was Venice’s second straight while the loss drops the Manta Rays to 8-8.
“They’re a physical team and we’re a physical team,” Young said. “We knew what to expect. They had a little more depth than we did.”
The teams started slow as the teams finished the first quarter tied at six. The Indians struggled with foul trouble early as seniors Bry Mamanna and Ta’Lee Howard picked up two quick fouls each. The Mantas failed to capitalize as the Indians’ press gave them trouble.
“We played with such great effort at times and played well but the score board didn’t show it,” Young said.
“We dug ourselves a hole and we have to stop getting in foul trouble,” Davis said. “Two of our seniors were out and our guards struggled to be patient.”
The second quarter was much of the same as neither team could pull away from the other. Lemon Bay went 6 for 12 from the free-throw line while Indian guard Miranda Hoffer scored six points to lead Venice. At halftime the teams were tied at 16.
“We had seniors on the bench and had 17 turnovers,” Davis said. “We were lucky to be tied.”
Lemon Bay came out of the locker room and quickly seized the momentum. The Manta Rays turned up the pressure and forced the Indians into turnovers. Breanna Nelson, Lauren Maheu and Kelsey Hansen all scored in a Manta Ray 6-0 run to open the quarter.
After a timeout, Venice fought right back to take a 23-22 lead on the strength of Howard and Hoffer. The teams traded baskets before Alexa Hann closed out the quarter with a three pointer to give Venice a 30-28 lead.
“Bry picked up her fourth foul and we had to take her out,” Davis said. “They played tough defense and made us really uncomfortable.”
The Indians continued their run in the fourth quarter and opened up a 40-30 lead as Howard scored four points, Hann made another three and Kirsten Dooling beat the Lemon Bay press for a layup. Young called a timeout and the Mantas responded with an 8-2 run of their own that forced a timeout by Davis.
“We came back from 10 down and that took great effort to go on a run at that time,” Young said. “We have to maintain that consistency and learn to slow down sometimes even in transition.”
Lemon Bay continued the onslaught and took a 44-42 lead on a layup by Francesca Gallucci. Anna Featherston scored on a layup to tie the game and Howard added two free throws to give Venice a lead they would never relinquish. The Indians barely escaped the foul trouble as they closed with game with three players with four fouls and one player fouled out.
“They just had their last run after we did to end the game,” Young said. “We missed 17 free throws and if we make some of those maybe we can get a ball to bounce our way.”
Hoffer led Venice with 14 points and nine steals while Howard also added 14 points. Hann added 11 points while Featherston scored seven points and eight rebounds.
“Ta’Lee (Howard) had a great game with 14 points in the second half,” Davis said. “Hoffer hustled and played hard the whole game. I like my teams to have balanced scoring because it makes us harder to guard.”
Nelson scored 11 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had seven steals for Lemon Bay. Maheu also scored 11 points for the Mantas.
VENICE 54, LEMON BAY 46
Lemon Bay 6 10 12 18 — 46
Venice 6 10 14 24 — 54