SARASOTA -- The Cardinal Mooney and Braden River boys basketball teams are missing what could be called their franchise players from last season.
The Cougars' Antonio Blakeney, one of the most highly touted college prospects in the country, transferred and lives in Orlando. Trevon Young, Braden River's career scoring and rebounder leader, now plays football for the University of Florida.
Cardinal Mooney looked like a team that has made a good adjustment, rolling to a 63-29 victory over the previously unbeaten Pirates on Friday night.
The host Cougars (3-1) started out on fire, knocking down 5 of 6 attempts from beyond the arc in the first quarter to take a commanding 24-6 lead after the first eight minutes. They slowed down a little in the second period, but controlled the game all night, forcing a running clock at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Cardinal Mooney head coach Stefan Gates isn't sure his kids feel they have something to prove with Blakeney gone. He was just happy they played their best game against what he called a good opponent.
"I am just real proud of their work and their effort, whether they have something to prove I don't know," Gates said. "This is probably as good as we shot all year. Our defensive intensity was better than it was the first week of the season, and a lot of times that propels your offense at the other end of the floor. This is the best we've played this year."
Ryan McMahon led the Cougars with 18 points and had six steals to go with three assists. Cardinal Mooney's 6-foot-6 senior, Matt Hueston, added 12 points and pulled in a game-high 10 rebounds. Guard Justin Najmy had 11 points and five assists.
Cardinal Mooney was relentless in the first half on both ends of the court. The Cougars shot 14-of-27 from the field and forced 12 turnovers while holding Braden River to six field goals on 23 attempts, including 1-for-6 from 3-point land in the first half. The Cougars finished the game with 11 steals and 17 assists.
"Antonio was a good player, but we have a team of good players," Gates said. "I am just proud of how hard they work. Our goal is to go out every night and play hard and get the best shot possible. Ryan has worked extremely hard to improve his game."
Nothing went right for Braden River, which shot a woeful 11-of-43 from the field. The Pirates' top scorer was Matt Lansdowne, who tallied seven points, and Austen Henderson pulled in a team-high six rebounds.
"That was a thump-down," Braden River head coach Matt Nesser said. "Give them credit. They are a well-coached team, but we didn't play any kind of defense. They got whatever they wanted. It was awful.
"We didn't contain the dribble and didn't contest the threes. They did everything better than us, outcoaching us and giving out water better on the bench. We got thumped, but we go back to work. Our foundation is to play defense and to give up 63 points the way we did is not good. I take responsibility for this."
Mooney shot 8-for-18 from beyond the arc and had 10 turnovers. Braden River was 3-for-16 from the bonus land and had 18 turnovers. The Cougars had a 25-20 edge on the glass.