BRADENTON -- It took 29 seconds during the third quarter for Lakewood Ranch to turn its all-county clash with Southeast into a blowout. The floodgates opened when Brock Sisson nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the game from the right corner to stretch the Mustangs' lead to 11 at Benjamin "Buzz" Narbut Gymnasium.
Ranch turned up its press. The Seminoles didn't get past their own 3-point line on any of the next three possessions. Between the 4:38 and the 4:09 marks of the third period, a nine-point lead turned into a 17-point cushion for Lakewood Ranch and sent the Mustangs to a 96-77 victory Thursday in Bradenton.
"It was hard for them to bounce back after that," Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said.
Lakewood Ranch (8-1, 3-0 Class 7A-District 11) led by seven at the break before cranking out a 15-5 run early in the second half, triggered by the Mustangs' three consecutive steal-and-scores. Sisson immediately followed his run starting 3 with a layup to give him five points in eight seconds.
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Another steal set up sophomore guard Damien Gordon for another layup 10 seconds later. Desperate to break the press, the Noles (6-4, 4-1 Class 5A-District 11) threw the ball out of bounds on the next possession and junior wing Blauvelt Georges capped Ranch's rapid-fire 9-0 run with another bucket.
By the end of the third quarter, Lakewood Ranch's lead had stretched to 14 and grew as large as 19 early in the fourth after Gordon's only 3 of the game. Southeast slashed the lead back down to 12 midway through the final quarter, but the Mustangs answered with baskets on back-to-back possessions to keep the Seminoles at bay.
"We all feed off each other late in the games," said Gordon, who finished with a team-high 24 points. "I knew we were going to come out like that."
Gordon was one of three Mustangs in double figures. Sisson finished with 16 points and went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Junior point guard Devin Twenty chipped in 11 for Ranch, which uses six juniors and three sophomores in its nine-man rotation.
Southeast guard Ronald Taylor led all scorers with 33 points on 8-of-14 shooting. The senior also made 12-of-14 attempts at the free-throw line.
The Seminole offense took a hit in the second half when an injury limited guard Tre Alexandria to a handful of minutes in the fourth quarter. The senior struggled to score -- he finished with only three point and went 1-for-7 during the first half -- but sparked the Noles early with his passing. The 5-foot-10 playmaker assisted on four of Southeast's first five baskets to give the Seminoles an early 11-8 lead.
With 26 seconds left in the first quarter, Lakewood Ranch took its second lead at 23-20 on a 3 by Georges. After two trips to the
free-throw line during the final 26 seconds of the period yielded three more points for Ranch to finish the quarter on a 6-0 run, Lakewood Ranch never trailed again.
"We felt comfortable," Gordon said. "When games get close like that we always end up pulling it out."