MANATEE -- When the boys basketball season began, Lakewood Ranch was hoping to build for the future.
It appears that future has arrived sooner than expected after the way the Mustangs took care of Southeast, 55-46, on Saturday in a non-district game at State College of Florida's Hal Chasey Gymnasium.
Despite starting five sophomores, Lakewood Ranch upped its record to 12-4 and is on course for its best season since winning a district title in 2005 with Lecory Ruffin, the only first-team all-state selection in the program's history.
It was the second time Lakewood Ranch defeated Southeast (8-8) this season. The Mustangs did it with an opportunistic defense that forced turnovers and took advantage of some careless ballhandling by the Seminoles.
Southeast ran off 10 straight points to open the game and appeared to be to be in for a dominating performance.
But the Noles were missing point guard Tre Alexandrea, who was out with a groin injury, and got sloppy with the basketball, committing 22 turnovers in the first three periods.
Damien Gordon, Lakewood Ranch's only freshman, scored eight of his team-high 17 points in the third quarter to ignite a rally by the Mustangs that enabled them to take over the game.
Southeast led 32-26 with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the third quarter when Lakewood Ranch went on a 15-1 run to take a 41-33 one minute into the final period. Gordon scored six straight points to begin the spurt, and Devin Twenty contributed a three-point play.
Southeast hurt itself with four turnovers in the final 2:55 of the third quarter and shot 4-for-13 in the period, compared to the Mustangs' 6-of-13.
"Some of their turnovers I would like to think was because of our defense, but without Alexandrea that was tough on them," Lakewood Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said. "We are starting to put our building blocks where we need to go. Damien had a good game. What I like about him the most is that I didn't realize he had 17 points until I looked at the book because he takes team shots."
Sam Hester had a good game for Lakewood Ranch with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Twenty contributed nine points, and Matt Muscara added eight points.
Corey Davis led Southeast with 18 points and seven rebounds. Aarien Foster added 11 points and six rebounds.
"It's not so much the number of turnovers, but the unnecessary turnovers where basically you just throw the ball to the other team," Southeast head coach Floyd Watkins said. "We didn't have Tre, our point guard, and so we had to put a lot of people in ballhandling situations that don't normally do that, and a lot of guys were nervous with the ball. As a result we had a lot of turnovers that were pretty much unforced."
Southeast shot well in the first half, connecting on 10 of 19 shots, but was only 9-for-33 in the second half and 2-for-10 from beyond the arc. After shooting a dismal 7-for-25 in the first half, the Mustangs came alive after intermission converting 9 of 18 shots with Gordon going a perfect 4-for-4 in the third quarter.