By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Teams typically don’t recover from the kind of start North Port High School had against Venice Wednesday night.
That’s because most teams won’t get a 13-point third-quarter outburst from Ben Via in order to rally back for a commanding 67-53 win.
The Bobcats shot 9 for 21 from inside the paint in the first half, according to Power, and their outside shooting wasn’t much better. Where it seemed like North Port couldn’t buy a shot in the first half, Via and the Bobcats couldn’t miss after the break.
“We wanted to attack the rim,” North Port coach Ryan Power said. “We were getting the shots we wanted, and if we were just missing layups, it’s something I know we can make in the second half and our defense will step up.”
Via finished the night with a game-high 24 points after just two points in the first half. Venice led 22-11 at one point in the second quarter, but with strong defense, North Port managed to hang on until they got into a rhythm.
After that 11-point lead for the Indians, they led just 24-23 following two quarters. Then came the halftime adjustments for the Bobcats.
“We saw that he had a mismatch, and we tried to exploit it as much we could and get him into a position where he can score the ball,” said Power of Via’s second half.
Via caught fire, and that allowed the rest of the team to follow along. Zach Babut hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, shots which weren’t landing in the first half.
The Bobcats reclaimed their first lead since the early stages of the first quarter then they went up 34-32 with 4:25 left in the third quarter. Venice tied it a few times, but then a 10-2 run quickly made it 51-38 early in the fourth.
North Port led by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, as Via contributed another seven points in the final period. He also added four rebounds and three blocks on the night.
“With our defense, if we can finally get a couple of stops and maybe make a layup or two, we’re going to be in the game,” Power said. “Luckily, we were able to take control there in the second half.”
Babut totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Bryson Thieme came off the bench for eight points and nine rebounds. Bryan O’Boyle had eight points and five rebounds.
For Venice, No. 23 had 19 points and nine rebounds. No. 24 had 10 rebounds.
NORTH PORT 67, VENICE 53
Venice 14 10 14 15 — 53
North Port 9 14 23 19 — 67
Venice (53): Jaivon Heiligh 19, Dylan Gregoire 13, Whelton 8, Priest 4, Hanley 3, Holloway 2, Marois 2. Totals: 23(3) 4-10 53.
North Port (67): Ben Via 24, Zach Babut 14, O’Boyle 8, Thieme 8, Cohen 5, Baker 2, Dismukes 3, Graff 2, Allen 1. Totals: 28(5) 6-11 67.