Though the Venice boys basketball team trailed Canterbury for most of the game during Day 1 of the New Year’s Shootout at Lehigh Senior High School, the Indians stayed within reach until the final minutes.

Down 37-30 at halftime, Venice (2-9) added 10 more points to its deficit heading to the fourth quarter. A pair of Adam Gebel 3-pointers and a bucket from Chason Rockymore briefly brought the Indians within striking distance, but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars sped on to a 78-51 win.

“We’re playing the hardest teams in the area trying to get better, but we keep making the same mistakes,” Venice coach John Flynn said. “When you’re in games and down six or seven points to teams like this, a 3 here, a turnover there, you’re in the game. We just can’t get over the hump.”

The Indians’ struggles revealed themselves on the first possession as they turned the ball over on an errant pass.

For much of the game, the Indians were hounded by an aggressive full-court press and a ball-swarming Canterbury defense.

“I think any time we get pressed like that, it hurts a little bit,” Flynn said. “But when we spend five hours on it the last two days and know that it’s coming and you run it with the JV, you think you’re ready.”

Cougars sophomore guard Alan Cedeno set the tone early when he hit the first of his four 3-pointers in the opening minutes.

But Rockymore and Christian Rodriguez each answered with a 3-pointer of their own, keeping Venice down just 19-16 after the first quarter.

Despite Canterbury holding just a seven point lead at the half, the Cougars quickly stretched their advantage to nearly 20 points thanks to the shooting of Bryson Royal and Trace Darby.

Venice came within 11 points with 4:40 remaining, but a shot by Chase Garrett and a quick steal and breakaway layup by Darby put any notions of a comeback to rest.

Rockymore was once again a strong presence for the Indians, scoring 17 points and harassing Cougars players on defense.

With the loss, Venice will gear up to rebound in Day 2 of the New Year’s Shootout this evening when they play Seacrest Country Day at 6 p.m. Following today’s game and Thursday’s game against Port Charlotte, Venice will enter the heart of its district schedule.

“We just have to stay in the gym and keep at it,” Flynn said. “The only thing I know how to do is to keep working. We’ve barely gotten to our district schedule yet. If it doesn’t translate over to next Friday at home against Sarasota, I don’t know what will.”

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