By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Ben Via has seen his role increase this season with the North Port High School basketball team, and the junior has made the most of his opportunity.
Via, who is a regular starter for the Bobcats, has emerged as one of the go-to threats in North Port. He was key in their 74-35 district win Tuesday night against Gulf Coast.
“This year has been really good,” Via said. “I’ve just been trying to be more aggressive on offense. I tried to focus a little more on defense tonight.”
The junior is averaging a tick under 10 points per game with 9.8, good enough for third on the Bobcats. He’s also No. 2 on the team with 4.1 rebounds per game. Both of those stats are top 10 in the area.
He was right around those totals in the blowout win against the Sharks, scoring nine points with four rebounds and a team-high five assists.
“I love having him on the team,” North Port coach Ryan Power said. “When I got here over the summer, he was still bonding with the guys. They’re what he can do, and he’s proving to himself what he can do.”
Via and the rest of the starters didn’t play in the fourth quarter, as North Port built up a 64-29 lead headed into the final period, which was a large enough lead to enforce a running clock.
The Bobcats started the game on a 21-1 run, quickly putting the game out of reach within the first six minutes. Via had five points in the opening quarter and Bryson Thieme hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Gulf Coast didn’t hit its first field goal until under a minute remaining in the first. North Port held a consistent 20-point lead for the next quarter and a half, with Bryan O’Boyle, Adam Cohen, Zach Babut and Gene Oliver scoring in chunks.
Cohen had a team-high 11 on the night. O’Boyle and Oliver each had 10 points, with four and five rebounds, respectively. Babut filled the stat sheet with eight points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
“It was a good win. Down at their place they played us extremely tough,” Power said. “I thought we got some defensive stops early, and some easy baskets which led to a lead that we were able to hold onto the rest of the way.”
With the win, North Port (10-6, 3-0 in District 8A-12) locked up the No. 1 seed for the district tournament over No. 2 Gulf Coast (6-9 1-2).
“This is what we set out to do,” Power said. “We wanted to host the district playoffs, and give ourselves the best opportunity to win a district championship and move forward into the playoffs.”
The Sharks were without their captains and top two players Bryce Foggin (suspension) and Spencer Davis (injury). Gabe Gomez had a team-high eight points.
NORTH PORT 74, GULF COAST 35
Gulf Coast 6 15 8 6 — 35
North Port 21 22 21 10 — 74
Gulf Coast (35): Gomez 8, Frost 7, Kiri 6, Joubert 4, Baker 3, White 3, Kaulbars 2. Totals: 13(1) 8-12 35.
North Port (74): Adam Cohen 11, Gene Oliver 10, Bryan O’Boyle 10, Via 9, Thieme 8, Z. Babut 8, Baker 6, Allen 4, Disukes 4, D. Babut 2, Ramirez 2. Totals: 32(5) 5-9 74.