EAST MANATEE -- Zach Kendall wasn't ready to turn in his uniform, especially in what was likely the final game on his home court.
So the Braden River senior did what he has done so many times. He put the Pirates on his back.
Kendall scored 28 points, including 21 in the second half, to lead host Braden River to a 56-40 victory over Sarasota in opening round play of the Class 7A-District 10 boys' basketball tournament Monday night.
"We were down by 11, and my teammates needed a boost and some confidence and that's what I gave them," the 6-foot guard said. "The team feeds off my energy. Our mindset changed the momentum of the game. Some of us were not mentally prepared. We talked about it (at halftime) and said we can beat them. We said this might be our last game so let's go out with a bang."
Sarasota (12-10) had its way early behind Joey Cavallaro and led 16-5 one minute into the second quarter as Braden River shot 1-for-12 in the first period. The Pirates (14-10) scored nine unanswered points and eventually trailed 19-16 at halftime.
Cavallaro scored 13 points in the first half, connecting on 5 of 8 shots. Braden River made some defensive adjustments at halftime, fronted the big man better and held him to five in the second half.
"We were looking for scoring in the second half, and that's what Zach does for us and got us going," Braden River head coach Matt Nesser said. "We started to front Cavallaro, and Deondrick Bacon did a good job on him in the second half. He didn't get any post entries, and we were able to take the ball out of his hands in the post."
After missing his first shot in the third quarter, Kendall made all seven of his field goal attempts for the rest of the game, scoring 12 points in the final period. He finished with six rebounds and converted 10 of 16 shots for the game.
Braden River trailed 21-19 midway through the third quarter when Kendall nailed a jumper and drove in for a layup to give the Pirates their first lead of the game at 23-21 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Sarasota responded with two straight treys to lead 27-23, but Kendall answered with five straight points on two field goals and a free throw to give the Pirates a 28-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Ryan Owsianka drained two attempts from beyond the arc, and Kendall nailed one to give Braden River a 39-31 lead with five minutes left.
Six straight points by Kendall, including one basket on a put ack off a missed basket on a fast break, pushed the Pirates' lead to 49-36 with 2:26 left.
"We have struggled offensively all year. We are holding teams in the forties, and we are a .500 ballclub," Nesser said. "So when we score in the fifties, that is pretty good for us."
Bacon was Braden River's only other double figure scorer with 11 points, and he had six rebounds. Michael Braxton had nine rebounds and nine blocks. After the first period, the Pirates shot 18-for-37 from the field and limited Sarasota to only 15 shots in the second half. The Sailors were 12-for-32 from the field for the game.
Braden River is on the road at top seed North Port on Wednesday in a semifinal matchup. The Bobcats have won both games between the teams this season, but the Pirates hung in before losing 49-43 in their last meeting.
"First time we played them, some of us we were a little intimidated. But when we go there we are going to be physically and mentally prepared and do what we need to do. We are going to keep it going until the end," Kendall said.