Two weeks after beating Lakewood Ranch from start to finish, the Venice girls basketball team couldn’t keep up with the Mustangs.

With their season on the line, the Lady Indians began Monday night’s 8A District-11 quarterfinals game without two of their best players in the lineup and lost, 40-28, at Lakewood Ranch High School.

“They stepped up their pressure,” Venice coach Joel Holloway said of Lakewood Ranch. “We didn’t handle it real well, but we’ve done that before. We’ve handled their pressure. We’ve been handling pressure all year.

“Just tonight, the combination of not having players in the middle to be able to relieve some of that on our guards, that guard pressure just took a little bit more of a toll than it normally does.”

Regular Indians starting guards Miranda Hoffer and Ellie DiGiacomo stayed on the bench for the start of Monday night’s loss and DiGiacomo hardly saw time on the court. Also of note, senior Kirstin Dooling was not suited up for the game.

Holloway, who had no comment for the benchings, ran with a new lineup that found itself in foul trouble early.

“We have to play inside-out,” he said. “And when you’ve got all three of your post players in foul trouble in the first quarter, you don’t have a Plan B. (The Mustangs) have size and they took advantage of it.”

The Mustangs made the most of their height all night, earning second chances on offense with rebounds and causing problems for Indians guards driving in for layups. In total, Lakewood Ranch finished with a 30-15 rebound advantage.

The size disparity couldn’t have been more obvious midway through the second quarter — as Lakewood Ranch grabbed four offensive rebounds before guard Spencer Mauk hit a 3-pointer.

Though Venice struggled mightily on offense, the Indians found themselves trailing by just three points after one quarter and seven points at halftime (21-14).

However, the lack of offensive flow made it nearly impossible for Venice to fight back into the game.

Trailing by eight heading into the final quarter, the Indians still had a chance to make it a game, but the offense went cold once again.

Venice was held scoreless until just 1:04 remained when Hoffer rolled in a layup — for a team-high 10 points — but the Indians still faced a 10-point deficit.

“We didn’t have ball movement,” Holloway said of the season-ending loss. “You get into lineup combinations that we’re not normally in, that causes a lot of problems.”

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