LAKEWOOD RANCH -- In its district semifinal, the Lakewood Ranch boys basketball team barely escaped a bombardment of 3-pointers to escape with a double-overtime victory.
The host Mustangs were not as fortunate Friday night, when North Port drained 6 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc to secure the Class 7A-District 10 title with a 62-51 victory.
Lakewood Ranch (21-6) was hoping to end a 10-year drought and win the program's second district championship. The Mustangs will be at Pinellas Park at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 in a region quarterfinal game.
Besides hitting from long range, North Port (19-7) had its way with Lakewood Ranch's zone defense, converting 18 of 29 field-goal attempts and getting the ball inside for a lot of high-percentage shots.
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"They shot 62 percent from the field. What a great job by their seniors and their coach to be ready to play and make big-time shots," Lakewood Ranch head coach Jeremy Schiller said. "I thought we missed a few plays that we normally make, but at the end of the day we played a good game. They just played a better one. We got beat by the better team tonight."
Lakewood Ranch also got beat by a more experienced team. The Bobcats' top three scorers are seniors: Victor Sinopoli (17 points), Malek Barber (14) and Teddy Deas (13).
Lakewood Ranch started five sophomores, but the Mustangs' best performance was turned in by senior Cameron Darby, who topped the team with 15 points and six rebounds.
"Our shifts in our zone were fine, and they made the plays they needed to make," Schiller said. "I don't think it was as much our defense, which was solid, as it was their offense. They made shots that were contested and tough."
A basket by Justin Muscara to open the second quarter gave Lakewood Ranch its last lead of the game at 16-14. Sinopoli responded with two 3-pointers, sandwiched around two free throws by Barber, to give the Bobcats a 22-16 advantage.
A driving layup by Sinopoli and a trey by Deas pushed North Port's lead to 28-20, but Lakewood Ranch's Sam Hester closed out the first half scoring on a putback to bring the Mustangs to within 28-22 at halftime
Leading 33-27 midway through the third quarter, the Bobcats buried back-to-back treys to open up a double-digit lead and finished out the period with a 45-34 lead after Darby, who usually doesn't shoot from long range, nailed a shot from beyond the arc.
North Port stretched its lead to 49-36 two minutes into the fourth period, and Lakewood Ranch couldn't make up the difference.
As usual, Lakewood Ranch's scoring was balanced. Along with Darby, freshman Damien Gordon had 10 points, Hester contributed nine, and Justin Muscara added eight.
The Mustangs shot 19-of-45 from the field and were 2-of-10 from beyond arc while converting 9 of 15 shots from the charity stripe.
"I thought we were much more calm and ready to play tonight," Schiller said. "I thought they did a good job growing up, and we need to grow up and take another step in regions. We've still got a lot of season left. We are trying to get to the region final and go to the final four."