By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — The North Port High School girls basketball team wrapped up second place in District 8A-12 with a 77-44 drubbing of Riverdale Friday night at The Cage.
It was never much of a contest as the Bobcats held the Raiders scoreless for the first six minutes of the game while opening up a 15-0 lead. North Port gradually extended its lead from there to 36-18 at halftime and to 59-30 at the end of the third quarter.
Center Alexis Francavilla dominated inside, collecting 22 points and 13 rebounds as the undermanned Raiders struggled to keep up. The Bobcats’ play was erratic in stretches, allowing Riverdale to keep the margin under the 35-point deficit necessary to trigger a running clock until the final minute of the game.
“They came out and did what they had to do,” North Port coach Dale Huffman said. “We’ve played this team before and beat them last time pretty handily. I think early in the game we were playgrounding too much, trying to do more than we should have. We had to keep telling them, ‘Play your game, play steady and open it up so everybody gets a lot of playing time.’ That’s what we wanted to do.”
The comfortable margin allowed Huffman to substitute liberally, and nine of the 10 Bobcats who played found the scoring column. Besides Francavilla, three other North Port players reached double figures: Aryana Hough with 14, Emani Jefferson with 12 and Nykevia Blakeney with 10.
“The subs actually got in and they performed,” Huffman said. “They need that experience. A lot of games they don’t get a chance to get out there and run that many minutes. So it was a good game for them too all the way around.”
The victory gives the Bobcats ( 9-8, 2-2 District 8A-12) the runner-up spot in the district and they will host the Raiders (3-9, 0-4) again when the district tournament begins later this month.
In the meantime, Huffman hopes to close out the regular season strong with a string of victories.
“We’ve got six winnable games in a row. That was the first one,” Huffman said. “Our goal is to win out the rest of the schedule, then come up with some kind of a plan for Gulf Coast.”
The first-place Sharks are unbeaten in District play and have defeated the Bobcats twice during the regular season.
NORTH PORT 77, RIVERDALE 44
Riverdale 6 12 12 14 – 44
North Port 17 19 23 18 – 77
Riverdale (44): C’dara Manuel 11, Amirah Hogland 10, Presson 7, Robinson 6, Perkins 4, Pierre 4, Bloxham 2. Totals: 19(0) 6-21, 44
North Port (77): Alexis Francavilla 22, Aryana Hough 14, Emani Jefferson 12, Nykevia Blakeney 10, Nazario 8, Pelton 5, McDonald 2, Gonzalez 2, Hand 2. Totals: 33(1), 10-15, 77