LAKEWOOD RANCH -- On a night when its two leading scorers struggled, the Lakewood Ranch girls' basketball team found it has other weapons.
Aleah Robinson played like a seasoned veteran instead of the freshman she is in leading the Mustangs to a 46-41 victory over visiting Sarasota on Thursday in a battle of state-ranked teams.
Lakewood Ranch came into the game ranked No. 2 in the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches FABC/Source Hoops Class 7A State Rankings. Sarasota is fifth.
Robinson led the Mustangs with 19 points and 11 rebounds and was clutch down the stretch. She dropped in four straight free throws, converting two one-and-one situations in the final 33 seconds and had four rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Every point was needed. Lakewood Ranch's leading scorer, Emily Bulfin (16.5 ppg), was held to one point, and 6-3 freshman LaDazhia Williams (16 ppg) was limited to 10 points and five rebounds.
"I usually don't shoot that much. I have been playing timid, and tonight I wanted to prove that I could step up to the plate. They were guarding our good shooters and stopping our inside," Robinson said.
Lakewood Ranch made things difficult for itself because of poor rotation on defense. Playing zone for most of the game, the Mustangs left Zahria Grable open, and the guard burned them for 26 points, knocking down 8 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc. She came into the game averaging nine points and shooting 25 percent from 3-point land. Her teammates missed all five of their 3-point attempts.
Lakewood Ranch had a 28-18 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter when Grable hit four straight 3-pointers, including two to start the fourth period that gave Sarasota a 32-31 lead.
"We should've shut her down every time, but we left her wide open," Lakewood Ranch head coach Tina Hadley said. "We were not rotating the right way on defense, and then we were overplaying. I kept asking
them 'what are you doing; do you see who is making all their shots?'"
Sarasota trailed 38-35 with 3:11 left in the game when Robinson hit a trey and converted two free throws around a Sailors' foul shot to give Lakewood Ranch a 43-36 lead with 32 seconds left that proved to be enough.
Kailyn Scully had 13 points and three rebounds for Lakewood Ranch, which shot 17-for-46 from the field (3-12 on treys) and outrebounded Sarasota 24-17. The Sailors were 15-for-28 from the field and only 7-for-29 on two-point field goal attempts.
"We didn't play like the number two team in the state, but we played well enough to win, and I am happy with that," Hadley said. "This was our first close game this season. What we did best tonight is that other people had to step up and score and they did that. If they are going to dare our other players to score, we have to score. I did tell Aleah if she didn't shoot the ball she would be on the bench."