By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — A fire alarm forced an evacuation of Lemon Bay High School with 4:25 remaining in Thursday night’s game against Venice.
Unfortunately for the Manta Rays, they were unable to catch fire following the 20-minute delay, falling to the Indians 49-36 in a non-district game.
“To me, struggling shooting the ball becomes like a hitting slump in baseball,” Lemon Bay coach Sean Huber said. “The hitters are dying for any contact. You know what I mean?
“I don’t want it to be that way. I want our guys to be confident. I want them to believe that when they’re going to shoot the ball it’s going in, but right now it’s not that way.”
In what was a defensive battle for most of the night, the Manta Rays shot just 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.
“That says the whole thing,” Huber said of his team’s shooting percentage. “We’re going to have to take a look at taking more shots that are more balanced and in rhythm. I can’t tell you why we’re shooting the ball so bad because we’re a good-shooting basketball team.”
The Indians entered the final quarter with a 28-26 lead, and went 13-for-18 from the foul line to help seal the victory. Venice didn’t attempt its first free throw until 0.8 seconds remained in the third quarter.
Dylan Gregoire led the Indians with a game-high 16 points. He also had eight rebounds and four assists.
Jaivon Heiligh added 12 points — all in the second half — and seven rebounds. Kyle Marois scored just three points, but had a game-best 13 rebounds.
Venice (12-12) dominated the first half, although it wasn’t indicated on the scoreboard. Those three Indians combined for all 13 of the team’s boards in the opening quarter, where they out-rebounded Lemon Bay 13-5.
The Indians ended the night with a 39-27 rebound advantage, and led 15-5 off the offensive glass.
“I just think they have some big, athletics guys who play really strong,” Huber said. “They’re super athletic and they go after the ball. We just have to do a better job.”
Even though Lemon Bay (14-10) wasn’t rebounding well in the first half, and made just three field goals in the game’s first 13 minutes, it kept the game close most of the night. Venice went into the break with an 18-17 lead.
The Manta Rays never led in the loss, but managed to tie it twice in the third quarter, the last at 24-24 with 3:06 left.
Keegan Wyman had a team-high nine points for Lemon Bay. Tyler Caron scored eight points with four blocks. He accounted for half of the team’s eight rejections on the night.
This was the final game for the Manta Rays before heading into the district tournament. Huber wants to see improvement before then.
“You want to play your best basketball going into districts, and I really just don’t like where we’re at right now,” Huber said. “We’re going to have to get to work tomorrow and Monday and really find ourselves again.”
Lemon Bay hosts North Fort Myers at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the District 7A-10 quarterfinals.
VENICE 49, LEMON BAY 36
Venice 10 8 10 21 — 49
Lemon Bay 5 11 10 10 — 36
Venice (49): Dylan Gregoire 16, Jaivon Heiligh 12, Holloway 9, Lamaida 6, Burrows 3, Marois 3. Totals: 15(4) 15-20 49.
Lemon Bay (36): Wyman 9, Caron 8, Reid 5, Wolff 4, Huber 3, Comer 3, Morrill 2, Gomez 2. Totals: 14(2) 6-10 36.