AVON PARK - When the Avon Park boys basketball team plays unselfish and looks for the open man they can be tough to beat.
The Red Devils played just enough team ball to defeat Mulberry by a score of 49-34 in Class 4A-District 9 action on Thursday night.
The win improved the Red Devils to 2-0 overall and in district play.
"I'm a little disappointed in our offense," said Avon Park coach Marty O'Hora. "Very selfish dribble, drive basketball. "We're up 18 at the half and had a chance to work the clock, get some easy baskets and wrap up the win, but we wanted to be selfish and pad our stats and let Mulberry back in the game.
"We can't beat good teams playing like that."
Avon Park came out strong to open the contest as sophomore forward John Mason scored five of his game-high 16 points and senior guard Alfred Brown added four of his 12 points to give the Red Devils a 14-6 lead heading into the second period.
Avon Park kept the pressure on utilizing a stifling full-court press that forced numerous Panther turnovers which were converted into easy baskets.
Brown racked up six points and Damion Braswell chipped in with four points as the Red Devils enjoyed a commanding 28-10 lead at the half.
"We played as a team for most of the fist half," said O'Hora. "We executed the offense, looked for the open man and got some easy points off our press."
Mulberry took advantage of some sloppy ball handling and poor shot selection by Avon Park to storm back into the game in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Henry Berry scored six of his team-high eight points and Angel Santiago buried back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Panthers within 32-26 with 2:43 remaining in the game.
Avon Park called a time out to try and stem the tide.
The Red Devils came out focused and scored on the inside which allowed them to set up their devastating full-court press.
The press paid immediate dividends as the Panthers turned it over on consecutive possession and Avon Park scored several easy baskets to take a 36-27 lead into the final eight minutes.
"We need to realize it's a team game," O'Hora said. "When we do that and play together we're pretty good."
Avon Park pulled away in the final period as the 6-foot-4 Mason dominated inside the paint and scored eight points to help the Red Devils pull away from the scrappy Panthers.
"John is a hard worker and takes instruction well,"O'Hora said. "He has good size and is only going to get better."
Avon Park worked the clock on each possession to seal the hard-fought win over Mulberry.
The Red Devils are off the week of Thanksgiving, but are back on the hardwood on Dec. 2 with a home game against Ridge Community.
Avon Park plays at Lakeland Kathleen on Dec. 3, and is at district rival McKeel Academy Dec. 5. "We're off for a week and we have some tough games when we come back," O'Hora said. "We'll get a chance to see how good we are against some quality teams."