LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The biggest difference between the Lakewood Ranch and Palmetto boys basketball teams is manpower.
The Mustangs have plenty of it and the Tigers are sorely lacking.
It was clearly evident in Lakewood Ranch's 75-67 Class 7A-District 11 victory over visiting Palmetto on Tuesday night.
The Mustangs had four players in double figures and poured body after body onto the court, going nine deep without losing a beat. The Tigers rely heavily on Tre Clark and when he is having what might considered an off night for him, they struggle.
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Lakewood Ranch (7-1, 3-0) trailed 39-20 with 3:32 remaining before halftime, but with Palmetto's tendency to get sloppy with the ball and the Mustangs' ability to bomb away from long range with a bevy of players, the Tigers' lead didn't appear safe.
"We have great kids who love playing together and they are all about winning," Lakewood Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said. "We play everybody. A kid might have 20 in one game and zero in the next, but nobody's complaining. It's pretty rare for a high school team. We work very hard at team building, but at the end of the day it's the character of the kids.
Lakewood Ranch went on a 15-4 run in the final three minutes of the second period to cut its deficit to 43-35 at the break. In typical Mustangs fashion, five different players scored in the spree.
The Mustangs outscored Palmetto 14-8 in the third quarter and forced six turnovers while limiting the Tigers to 2-12 shooting to deadlock the game at 49 heading into the final period.
Back-to-back baskets by Kodey Elliott to open the fourth quarter gave Lakewood Ranch the lead for good. Clark nailed a trey to cut Palmetto's deficit to 53-52, but the Mustangs responded with five straight points that included a 3-pointer by Sam Hester.
Clark finished with a game high 28 points, but struggled. The senior guard scored 17 points in the first half, nailing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, and was 6 for 7 from the field.
He finished the night connecting on 10 of 22 field goal attempts (5-12 on treys) and struggled at the free throw line hitting five of 10.
"i think fatigue might have been an issue for our team and we ask a lot of Tre and sometimes it's going to be up and down," Palmetto head coach Reggie Bellamy said.
"We've played five games in seven nights. We will be all right. This is a good opportunity for us to learn."
Clark shot 1 for 8 from the field in the third quarter, but on multiple occasions he drove into the paint and was clearly fouled, getting hit on the arm and wrist, and didn't get calls.
The only other player in double figures for Palmetto was Kyle Edwards, who contributed 10 points and hauled in 10 rebounds.
Palmetto (5-4, 3-1) has been struggling with turnovers.
They did a better job in the first half with eight turnovers, but committed 12 in the second half.
The Tigers nailed 7 of 19 attempts from 3-point land and were 24-53 overall.
"I think we learned and grew up in this game," Bellamy said.
"I think we played with a different effort that displayed in the first half. If we actually get after it, we could put ourselves in a good situation. We knew they would make a run at us."
Jack Kelly led the Mustangs with nine rebounds to go along with his seven points. The Mustangs were not shy from long range, launching up 29 attempts from beyond the arc while sinking nine.
"I think (on our comeback) it's not that they played bad, but we decided to compete. When we play like that with nine guys, it's tough to play against us," Schiller said.
"We drive and kick a lot and work on our 3-point shooting. We have great shooters, but I thought the game changed when we started to get into the paint and made a few plays. Jack and Kodey played well inside.'-