SARASOTA -- Lakewood Ranch was looking for tough competition in preparation for this week's boys district basketball tournament.
Riverview, the top-ranked team in Class 8A, was happy to oblige and gave the Mustangs a lot to think about in the regular-season finale.
The Rams (23-2) dominated Lakewood Ranch (19-5), jumping to 24-point lead midway through the second quarter en route to a 71-56 victory Saturday night. Riverview led by 24 with four minutes left when the Mustangs staged a little run.
Mustangs head coach Jeremy Schiller had no regrets scheduling one of the best teams in the state and said it would help his team, which is the top seed in Class 7A-District 11.
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"It was a perfect storm of us missing shots and them making shots," Schiller said. "I thought our kids played hard and battled from the beginning to the end. Sometimes shots don't fall. Riverview did a good job defensively, but we had open looks we normally knock down."
Lakewood Ranch struggled getting into a rhythm in the first quarter against a quicker Riverview squad.
The Rams were led by their high-scoring duo of Brian Whitley and A.J. Caldwell, who tallied 28 points apiece. Caldwell put up 25 points, including four of seven from beyond the arc and nine of 12 field goal attempts, in the first half as the Rams went into halftime with a 44-18 lead. He finished with 11 assists and eight rebounds.
Lakewood Ranch struggled to find open shots and connected on six of 27 field goal attempts and two of 11 3-point attempts in the half. The Mustangs finished 6-28 from behind the arc.
"We average nine 3s made a game and we didn't just hit our normal average," Schiller said. "Riverview is the No. 1 team in 8A; they are local so we didn't have to travel that far and we got a battle that we needed."
Riverview maintained a lead of at least 20 points in the third and pushed it to 61-35 the first minute into the final period.
The Rams led 69-47 with 2:44 left when Lakewood Ranch outscored Riverview 9-2 to finish the game. In the stretch Sam Hester scored five points and Damien Gordon scored four.
Schiller chalked it up as a learning experience.
"The biggest thing is that we've got to be prepared to finish plays like we normally do. We learned if we play hard we can compete with anyone," Schiller said. "We never quit. This helps us to go into a tough district and a tough regional. If we score a few more points in the first half we have a much different game. I thought they hit some tough shots."
Gordon led Lakewood Ranch with 15 points, Hester had 12 and Lenny Twenty contributed nine. The Mustangs had 22 turnovers and even struggled at the foul line converting only 8 of 16 attempts. The Rams shot 28-61 and were 8 for 26 on 3s, but 6 for 11 on treys in the the first half.
The Mustangs outrebounded Riverview 36-30 and pulled in 14 offensive rebounds. Jack Kelly and Kodey Elliott led with seven rebounds each.