By Josh Grant, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — Tuesday night’s performance against Ida Baker High School will be one of those games that Lemon Bay head coach Sean Huber will use to talk his players up as they begin the road to the District 7A-10 tournament.
It was energetic, physical, intense — the exact stuff that determines the makeup of your team when heading into the playoffs.
Keegan Wyman led the way with 13 points, but it was the physicality and mental toughness of the entire Lemon Bay squad that helped trounce Ida Baker, 59-38.
“Everything we’re doing right now both offensively and defensively, we’re doing much tougher,” Huber said. “We’re setting screens tougher, blocking out harder, closing out harder, taking more charges, deflecting more passes, diving for loose balls.”
“Everything is just going harder and I don’t think they were expecting us to be as physical as we were tonight.”
Cruising comfortably with a 12-point lead near the middle of the second quarter, Wyman was attempting to break free from a trap at midcourt when he was caught with an intentional elbow to the face, causing Huber and the crowd to let the Ida Baker bench and officials know how they felt about the play.
“It was unfortunate because at this stage of the game, nobody can afford to lose kids to broken noses, missing teeth, ejections, or any of that type of stuff,” Huber said. “I’m proud of the way my kids handled that situation.”
From that moment on, it was if the tide of the Lemon Bay team had completely changed, that not only were the Manta Rays out to win a district game, they were going to let the other team know that they could be just as physical, too.
“Defensively, my guys just turned everything up a notch,” Huber said. “That definitely fired them up.”
The Manta Rays (13-8, 6-5) totaled 12 steals and forced Ida Baker (5-12, 3-9) into 22 turnovers, the majority coming in the second half.
Hayden Wolff finished with another double-double — 10 points and 11 rebounds — while Jake Comer finished with 12 points.
Martel Yale also had a nice night off the bench for Huber, finishing with six points on 3-of-3 shooting, but more importantly, Yale showed that he could handle the bright lights of the playoff atmosphere.
“(Yale) handled the hostile situation pretty well,” Huber said. “He made a couple of nice plays at both ends, which is a great experience for him.”
A scary moment for Huber came midway through the third quarter when his son Cade, the Manta Rays’ starting point guard, went to block a dunk attempt by Ida Baker’s 6-foot-5 senior, Robert Cobb, and was sent to the floor with a nasty cut just below the right orbital bone.
Cade’s status for Wednesday night’s game against Gateway Charter is unknown, but he should be ready to go for Friday night’s game.
Lemon Bay continues to jockey for home-court advantage in the District 7A-10 tournament but has one more district game on the schedule on Friday against Port Charlotte, the number one-seed in the district.
“Tonight’s game preps you for those kind of physical games,” Huber said. “As it gets closer to playoff time, officials are going to let the players decide the game.”
“You have to be able to handle extra contact, make your foul shots and finish at the rim. I’m glad the officials handled the game that way tonight.”
LEMON BAY 59, IDA BAKER 38
Ida Baker 7 7 15 9 — 38
Lemon Bay 15 17 16 11 — 59
Ida Baker (38): Devin Hanley 15, James Cuttino 12, Palacios 3, Alvarez 2, Barnes 2, Calderon 2, Cobb 2. Totals: 15 (6) 2-14 38.
Lemon Bay (59): Keegan Wyman 13, Jake Comer 12, Hayden Wolff 10, Yale 6, Morrill 4, Caron 3, Bottenfield 3, Reyes 2, Huber 2, Sweeny 1. Totals: 19 (5) 16-22 59.