VENICE — With his team on the verge of losing an eight point lead in Monday Night’s Class 8A-District 11 boys basketball quarterfinal, Venice head coach John Flynn called a time out and yelled out, “Are you serious?” loud enough that it could be heard all over the gym.
“I told them to believe in the plan and I told them to believe in everything we’ve been working on over the last couple days,” Flynn said.
The Indians may have briefly lost that lead, but they ultimately responded to Flynn’s challenge of getting back to the basics. Venice senior Chason Rockymore scored 30 points to lead Venice to a 55-50 win over the Sailors at The Teepee.
Rockymore and Adam Gebel gave the Indians an early 12-point lead in the first quarter. After Rockymore drained a 3-pointer the Indians suddenly went cold from the floor, which allowed the Sailors to get back within three at the end of the opening period.
Gebel got an assist from Rockymore on a 3-pointer that put Venice back up by eight. Rockymore, who was perfect from the charity stripe in the first half, scored six of his 15 first half points from the line as the Indians appeared to be in control of the game at the break.
“It was win or die,” Rockymore said. “You have to get these guys going sometimes and you have to set the example.”
Turnovers plagued the Indians coming out of the locker room and Sarasota stormed back to within a point. That’s when Flynn called his fateful timeout — one that even included a clipboard bouncing off the floor.
“What happens is sometimes we get a little unraveled,” Flynn said. “We had to bring them back to focus again and then everything was fine like it was in the first half.”
Sarasota briefly took a 30-29 lead on a layup by Jamal Thompson. That was short-lived as Vince Marino and Gebel countered with threes of their own. Rockymore finished the quarter with a powerful put-back dunk and a layup.
Venice held an eight point lead for most of the final period. Sarasota clawed back and got within three points after a 3-pointer by Terrell Pack and a layup by Jack Duffy.
Venice turned the ball over on the inbound play, but Pack missed the potential tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. Rockymore went on to connect on his final two free throws and picked off the last-ditch inbounds pass to ice the game.
“It meant a lot for us to sort of settle down toward the end and make the right passes and make the right plays,” Rockymore said.
Gebel was the only other Indian in double figures with 11 points.
Venice improves to 11-16 on the year and will travel to Lakewood Ranch for a district semifinal game on Wednesday. The Mustangs have beaten the Indians twice this season, but Flynn is optimistic heading into the matchup.
“We know it’s going to be a tough deal for us, but that’s why we play these games,” he said. “You never know what could happen.”