When Jacob Garrett fractured his foot nearly 1 1/2 months ago, Braden River High School’s basketball season was in jeopardy at first glance.
The Pirates had lost their second-leading scorer, which is usually a devastating blow to any team’s potential playoff chances.
While head coach Jason Mickan said the team is hopeful to get Garrett back in time for district tournament, which begins Monday, the Pirates have trudged on without him. Using the “next man up” philosophy, Mickan’s group, led by leading scorer Deoni Cason and the leader in assists, Curtis Cobb, and the leader in rebounding, Ryan Duncan, filled the void.
“That was tough, but we had other people step up,” Cobb said.
In Cason and Cobb’s case, the two have raised their play down the stretch. Cason, who entered last week averaging 18.6 points per game, scored 25 and a career-high 32 in two games — both Braden River victories.
“As a leader, I definitely have a lot of weight on me knowing my team depends on me to make shots,” Cason said.
The Pirates enter this week’s Class 8A-District 11 tournament as the No. 3 seed. To get to the regional playoffs, they’ll need to knock off Sarasota at home and Palmetto on the road. That would send Braden River into the district championship game.
Succeeding in Palmetto’s gym is something Braden River is familiar with. The Pirates and Tigers split the season series with each earning a victory on other’s home floor. Both teams were separated by one game in the district standings. Palmetto’s 6-4 mark in league games earned it a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed. Braden River settled for the three-seed.
Both teams were well shy of the season Lakewood Ranch put together.
The Mustangs went 10-0 in district and are the favorite to win back-to-back district championships.
“It’s a tough district tournament and we’re really proud of the fact that of being able to go undefeated a second year in a row in the regular season, because it isn’t easy,” Lakewood Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said. “Because those teams are tough. ... It’s going to be a challenging district tournament.”
Lakewood Ranch features a cohesive unit that’s played together for some time, and the Mustangs don’t rely on a couple of players to score. Their versatile lineup includes Devin Twenty, Damien Gordon, Sam Hester and Jack Kelley. Plus, they’ve built a difficult schedule that included strong opponents over the winter break at Ocala’s Kingdom of the Sun tournament as well as a regular-season finale with one of Class 9A’s top teams, Sarasota Riverview.
But Schiller said they’ve still not played a complete game.
“We haven’t had one yet,” Schiller said. “We’ve had ones where we played well, but we haven’t had a game where we said everybody played really well. And I’m excited to see what that looks like.”
Bayshore High is the No. 3 seed in the Class 6A-District 11 tournament that begins Tuesday. The Bruins play host to Dunedin in a quarterfinal. A victory sends them to the semifinals at second-seeded St. Pete Gibbs on Wednesday. Southeast, which won the district last season, is the No. 4 seed and faces Tarpon Springs at home in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
The 3A-5 district tournament is at Saint Stephen’s this year. Bradenton Christian is the defending champ, winning the district en route to a state runner-up finish in 2016. However, the Panthers lost their starting lineup from that team and begin this year’s district tournament on Monday against North Port Imagine.
Out-of-Door Academy awaits if the Panthers win in Tuesday’s semifinal as the district’s top seed. Saint Stephen’s plays host to Gulf Coast HEAT in Monday’s quarterfinal. The Falcons play Sarasota Christian in Tuesday’s semifinal with a victory.
Class 8A-District 11
Sarasota at Braden River, 7 p.m.
Manatee at Venice, 7 p.m.
Sarasota/Braden River winner at Palmetto, 7 p.m.
Manatee/Venice winner at Lakewood Ranch, 7 p.m.
Championship game at higher seed, 7 p.m.
Class 6A-District 11
Tarpon Springs at Southeast, 7 p.m.
Dunedin at Bayshore, 7 p.m.
Tarpon Springs/Southeast winner at St. Pete Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Dunedin/Bayshore winner at St. Pete Gibbs, 7 p.m.
Championship game at higher seed, 7 p.m.
Class 3A-District 5
(all games at Saint Stephen's)
North Port Imagine vs. Bradenton Christian, 5 p.m.
Gulf Coast HEAT vs. Saint Stephen's, 7 p.m.
Imagine/BCS winner vs. Out-of-Door Academy, 5 or 7 p.m.
HEAT/Saint Stephen's winner vs. Sarasota Christian, 5 or 7 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.