By Josh Grant, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — Just before the start of Friday’s senior night tip-off for the Lemon Bay Manta Rays, the lights above the court mysteriously flickered on and off, causing some to wonder what was going on.
Or maybe, it was a sign of things to come.
Junior guard Lauren Maheu shot the proverbial lights out, scoring 26 points, including seven 3-pointers, leading the Manta Rays to a 58-22 victory over North Fort Myers.
“I think it’s a Friday thing, honestly,” Maheu said. “The last two games we’ve kind of started out slow, so since Friday, coach (Young) has been telling me to play like I did last Friday.”
“Tonight, I guess it came back.”
Lemon Bay held a 12-point lead at the half, 23-11, but had struggled to find an offensive identity.
That’s when Maheu took over.
Maheu started the quarter by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, which jump-started the stagnant Lemon Bay offense.
“(Maheu) really got us going after a slow start,” Lemon Bay coach Mike Young said. “In the third quarter, it was like the floodgates opened. She’s making three-pointers, we’re getting a lot of steals and rebounds.”
“It was a great way to play senior night.
Maheu finished the third quarter with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-3 from behind the three-point line.
“The only thing (Maheu’s) got to learn is that confidence to stay with her shot,” Young said. “We’ve been working with her to take her shot more and when she does that, it opens up things in the post.”
The dominant post players for Lemon Bay—Francesca Gallucci and Kelsey Hansen—reaped the benefits of Maheu’s outside work, combining to grab 24 offensive rebounds.
Gallucci finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The four seniors for Lemon Bay—Hansen, Breanna Nelson, Dominique Mamalis, Ryan Carley—played an inspired final game in front of the home crowd, with each player providing a solid contribution in the victory.
Nelson struggled offensively but dished out eight assists and grabbed eight rebounds while Hansen finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Mamalis scored three points but provided a strong influence on defense while Carley finished with five points, five rebounds and five steals.
“These are four, really hard-working kids that were relatively new to basketball when they came to high school but have developed into the core of our team,” Young said. “We have a bright future with a lot of talented, young kids in the wings, but they have some big shoes to fill.”
Lemon Bay (11-11) has three tough matchups to end the season—Monday at home against Venice, Wednesday at Gateway Charter and Thursday at DeSoto—before the tough road ahead in the 7A-10 district playoffs.
“I didn’t know what we were going to have coming into this season,” Young said. “This group of seniors did worked really hard, bought into the system and have improved as the season has progressed.”
“These are some tough games coming up, but we’ve improved a lot over the last few weeks since Christmas break, so we’ll be ready.”
LEMON BAY 58, NORTH FT. MYERS 22
North Fort Myers 6 5 4 7 — 22
Lemon Bay 10 13 23 12 — 58
North Fort Myers (22): Taylor 9, Annece 7, Deja 4, Alexis 2. Totals: 10 (1) 1-6 22.
Lemon Bay (58): Lauren Maheu 26, Francesca Gallucci 10, Hansen 9, Carley 5, Nelson 3, Mamalis 3, Stevens 2. Totals: 20 (8) 10-22 58.