ENGLEWOOD – It wasn’t their best performance, but Gunyr Morrill and Lemon Bay played a fun and up-tempo style Thursday night in a 72-60 win over the Sarasota Military Academy.
“We came in over-confident and played really sloppy,” Lemon Bay head coach Sean Huber said. “It’s one of those things that you worry about on senior night. Do your emotions get the best of you or do you put on your work hat and do the things that you always do to win games?”
The Manta Rays (14-11) played a loose and frenetic first half, firing long-distance passes and playing fast while scoring 42 points in the first 16 minutes. Unfortunately for Lemon Bay, that loose play carried over to the defensive end, where they allowed the Eagles (4-21) to continually chip into the deficit.
After Nik Taylor scored on a layup to make it 26-25 Lemon Bay in the second quarter, Morrill drilled a three-pointer to put the Mantas back up four. After Sarasota Military closed the gap again and tied it at 29-29, senior Leon Fleming converted on a three-point play to give Lemon Bay the lead for good.
“Sarasota Military is tough,” Huber said. “They execute, they play good defense. They didn’t let some of the things they did confuse them, hence why it was close.”
Up by just two points after three quarters, the Mantas put the game away at the free throw line, going 7-for-7 from the stripe in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Eagles missed the front end of a 1-and-1 on back-to-back possessions in the middle of the period. Lemon Bay quickly took advantage when senior Sean Shamasian delivered consecutive layups to put the Manta Rays up 10 with under three minutes remaining.
Morrill finished with a team-high 19 points, flying around the court while collecting four steals, four rebounds and three assists.
“I was just trying to impress everybody and show off without being too selfish,” he said. “Most games I start off soft and weak, but this game I started off on fire. It was a good win.”
Morrill connected on all three of the Manta Rays’ three-pointers, something he said he’s been working on during the first period of school, when he doesn’t have a class scheduled.
Fleming finished with 14 points and nine rebounds on senior night, joining Morrill and five other seniors to tally points. Martell Yale totaled nine points, four rebounds and two assists.
“They’re pretty close and they’re a lot of fun away from the gym,” Huber said.
Even though Lemon Bay pulled out a very competitive game to finish the regular season, Huber knows his team must play better if they want to get back to regionals.
“Defensively, we have to do a lot better in the half court,” said Huber. “We do a good job changing tempo when we press. We have to do a better job defending that bright orange rectangle in the middle of the floor. I’d also like to see us rebound a little better.”
Lemon Bay will begin postseason play when the district tournament begins on Monday.