EAST MANATEE -- Braden River turned in one of its best defensive efforts of the season, and Zechariah Kendall made it stand up for the host Pirates in a 44-28 Class 7A-District 10 boys basketball victory Friday night.
Braden River played a tenacious man-to-man, trapping defense that took the Mustangs out of their game and limited them to only seven baskets on 42 field goal attempts for a lowly 17 percent shooting mark.
Despite its offensive woes, Lakewood Ranch (8-9, 2-2) hung in there and trailed 28-23 less than a minute into the fourth quarter when Kendall took over.
The senior guard scored eight straight points for Braden River (8-8. 2-3) that enabled the Pirates to extend their lead to 36-24.
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The triumph made amends for Braden River's 46-43 loss at Lakewood Ranch last month. In that game, the Mustangs made eight of nine shots in the second quarter and spurted out to a 31-17 halftime lead.
"I felt like I had to take the game over (in the fourth quarter). The coach gave me the green light to go, and our offense made great plays," Kendall said. "We talked about that last game. We said we needed to win this game. We underestimated them the first time we played them, and we are not going to make that mistake again with any team. "
Kendall scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, knocking down six of eight shots. For the game he was 7-for-13 from the field with four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
"They out-toughed us the last time, and it was important that we brought toughness tonight," Braden River head coach Matt Nesser said. "Zach did a good job came and through at the
end. He is our guy that we go to. We don't score a lot of points, so we have to play defense.
"The unsung hero for us tonight was (6-foot-7) Michael Braxton. He blocked six shots, altered a lot of others and had 11 rebounds. To hold a team to 28 points is pretty hard."
The Pirates shot 18-for-40 from the field and were 12-for-21 in the second half. Lakewood Ranch was 2-for-18 in the second half from the field and had a rough night from the free-throw line, converting 14 of 25. The Pirates were 5-for-17 from the charity stripe.
"You have to give credit to their defense. We didn't finish a lot of plays that we usually do, and Zach Kendall is a great player," Lakewood Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said. "He took over and made the plays. The first time we played them we made shots. When you can't score more than 28 points in a varsity basketball game, it's hard to win. But it was a game the whole time. My kids played hard."
For Braden River, Isaiah Garrett had eight points, Deondrick Bacon pulled down 10 rebounds, and Braxton had six points.
Cameron Darby led Lakewood Ranch with seven points and five rebounds, and Sam Hester scored six points.
In the first meeting between the teams, Lakewood Ranch shot 3-for-24 in the second half after connecting on 12 of 19 shots in the first half.