LAKEWOOD RANCH - Senior Night means something to Randy Smith because he knows it means something to his players. He's not one of those coaches who settles for the pregame introductions and a token start.
He wanted to make sure all six of his seniors - Zach Jackson, Jack Haller, Jeremiah Hill, Daniel Aviles, Colby Hall and Mike Demarski - had a chance to make a memory Tuesday night. They responded by contributing to a Lakewood Ranch High victory.
The Mustangs' six seniors played the vast majority of the minutes, and Smith shortened his bench to allow his veterans more time in a 54-45 win over visiting Bayshore.
The seniors all scored, and they combined to score 39 of the Mustangs' points on the night. Demarski led Lakewood Ranch with nine points, while Aviles and Jackson added eight a piece.
"It's all about them," Smith said of his seniors. "It's been a long, rough year for us, and this was about them. I told them if they go out and produce and do positive things, it was gonna be (their) night all night."
Aviles said he's been playing basketball with guys like Hill, Haller and Hall since the days when they attended Braden River Middle School together. Their longtime bond showed on the court.
"I think he played whoever he thought would be doing good in there," said Aviles. "He played the seniors because it was Senior Night, then everyone started playing good so he kept them in."
With six seniors, Jackson took the role of coming off the bench, but responded as soon as he came in with two 3-pointers. He scored all eight of his points in the first half to help the Mustangs take a 30-27 lead into the third quarter.
"(Senior Night) got us all pumped up," Jackson said. "I've been looking forward to it. I haven't been seeing too many minutes this season."
In the third, Lakewood Ranch (9-13, 5-8 Class 5A-District 12) took off, outscoring the Bruins 11-3. The cushion allowed the Mustangs to relax and reflect on one of their best all-around games of the season.
"We brought a lot of energy and that carried us throughout the whole game," said Hill, who had five points. "When we were shooting the (fourth quarter) technical fouls, we were allowed to sit back for a second and reflect on how well we were doing. If we play like that every night, who knows? Maybe we can carry this into districts and go far."
After three quarters, the Mustangs were up 41-30 and the seniors had scored all but six of the team's point. Junior Josiah Miller and Nick Diaz combined for nine points in the fourth to change the percentages, but by then Lakewood Ranch was in control of the Bruins (4-15, 2-11).
Maybe Smith should keep the lineup in tact?
"If we keep playing like this, maybe he should," Aviles said.
BAYSHORE (45) - Chris Chawi 2 1-2 6, Cory Dick 1 0-0 3, Nick McDuffee 2 2-4 6, Tino Solomon 0 0-0 0, Jimmy Friedman 0 0-0 0, Dustin England 2 1-1 6, Marcus Lee 1 0-0 3, Derrick Hawkins 3 1-2 7, Rakeem Tinsom 0 0-0 0, Braun Balsai 2 0-0 5, Latravis Washington 3 3-3 9, Edson Seide 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 8-12 45.
Josiah Miller 3 1-1 7, Zach Jackson 3 0-0 8, Mike Demarski 4 0-0 8, Jack Haller 0 1-2 1, Daniel Aviles 3 0-0 8, Kieran Sweeney 0 0-0 0, Cole Zigich 0 0-0 0, Colby Hall 3 1-2 7, Jeremiah Hill 2 1-2 5, Nick Diaz 4 0-0 8. Totals: 22 4-7 54.
Bayshore 14 13 3 15 - 45
Lakewood Ranch 16 14 11 13 - 54
3-pointers: Bayshore 4 (Chawi, Dick, England, Balsai); Lakewood Ranch 5 (Jackson, 2, Aviles 2, Demarski). Total fouls: Bayshore 13; Lakewood Ranch 12. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: Balsai (Bayshore). Records: Bayshore 4-15; Lakewood Ranch 9-13, 5-8, 2-11.