ENGLEWOOD — Hoping for a win to close out the regular season on a high note, the Lemon Bay girls basketball team found a willing opponent in DeSoto County, as the Manta Rays rolled to a 53-33 victory in a non-district contest Friday night.
After a deadlocked first quarter, Lemon Bay opened up a nine-point halftime lead, withstood one brief Bulldog run in the third period, and pulled away in the fourth quarter for the victory.
DeSoto hit back-to-back three point baskets to take the early advantage, but the Mantas got their act together shortly after that.
“We found the shooters a little better and rebounded better in the second quarter,” Lemon Bay coach Mike Young said. “And then in the third and fourth quarters we did a good job of just handling the pressure and slowing ourselves down. We’ve just got to slow down the offense and we’ve got to move that ball. It’s cliches and it’s broken records but when the ball goes from side to side and we can get the ball in the post and get it out, all teams are successful.”
Lemon Bay outscored the Bulldogs, 16-7, in the second quarter to take a 28-19 halftime lead. DeSoto closed within six points in the third quarter, but the Mantas got back out to a nine point lead at the end of the period and extended the margin in the fourth quarter to avenge a loss to the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
“I thought our defensive effort was better in the second half,” Young said. “It’s a nice way to finish the week. We’ve had a tough stretch but we finished the week with two straight wins and we get to play a home game Monday night in the first round of the district tournament.”
The Mantas also picked up a forfeit win over Bradenton Christian to conclude the regular season with a 12-10 mark.
“I thought Olivia Gibb came to play tonight,” Young said. “We’ve been talking to Olivia about rebounding and making herself more assertive on the offensive glass and looking for her shot more.”
Gibb finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds while Abby Turner was the high scorer with 14 points and hauled in 7 rebounds. Katelyn Ziarnicki added 13 points for Lemon Bay.
Tanyah Smith did her best to keep the Bulldogs in the game with 17 points, but no one else could muster any consistent offense for DeSoto, now 7-14. The Bulldogs were also hurt by poor free throw shooting, sinking only 8 of 25 attempts.
“They pressed us last time and tonight we handled the pressure better,” Young said. “We’re getting better at moving the ball and cutting harder. We’re getting stronger with the ball and not getting knocked off the line, and we’ve been much stronger with our passes. So it’s the right time of the year to be feeling good and playing better. We’ll have a tough game Monday night and hopefully come out with a home win.”
Lemon Bay will host North Fort Myers in a district tournament quarterfinal Monday at 7:00. The teams split their regular season meetings with each winning on the opponent’s floor.
LEMON BAY 53, DESOTO COUNTY 33
DeSoto County 12 7 9 5 — 33
Lemon Bay 12 16 9 16 — 53
DESOTO: Smith 17, Evans 5, Maybell 4, Butler 3, Richardson 2, Burroughs 1, Omar 1. Totals: 10(5), 8-25, 33
LEMON BAY: Turner 14, Ziarnicki 13, Gibb 12, Redmann 6, Straub 4, Chandler 4. Totals: 18(1), 16-24, 53