FROSTPROOF - Even when his team wins by a comfortable margin, Dan Coomes thinks they can play better.
The Lake Placid boys basketball coach felt no different Monday night, when his Green Dragons defeated Mulberry, 62-54, in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A-District 9 tournament at Jim Boyd Gymnasium in Frostproof.
"I've got to do a better job of preparing them," Coomes said. "I'm not getting the right things going on at the right times. And when you don't do that, you don't win."
The win improved Lake Placid to 5-19 overall, while Mulberry finished the season at 2-18.
The Green Dragons advanced to the district semifinals and faced county rival Avon Park Tuesday.
Results were not available at press time, but be sure to check Thursday's Highlands Today sports section for the complete story and photos.
Lake Placid opened the game pumping on all cylinders, bolting out to an early 15-5 lead. But their offense stagnated near the end of the first quarter, and Mulberry stormed back to cut the deficit to 15-9.
Behind a strong rebounding effort from Tyre McDonald, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game and took an 18-16 lead on his second-chance bucket.
Markyrie McCray gave the Dragons some breathing room when he nailed a 3-pointer, but Lake Placid's offense was otherwise stymied in the first half by Mulberry's zone.
The Panthers shooters came alive in the second quarter as well. Henry Berry and Grant Urqhart swished back-to-back threes to give Mulberry a 26-24 lead. McDonald added two free throws to put his team up, 28-24, at the break.
Elijah Hargrove paced Mulberry with a game-high 23 points. Berry and McDonald each added 10, and Urqhart contributed seven.
The Green Dragons rediscovered their offense in the third period. Lake Placid tallied 23 points, largely behind the hot hand of Nick Tuason, who netted three 3-pointers in the quarter.
Marquavein Copeland got in on the long-range action as well, swishing a three near the end of the quarter for his only points of the game.
Tuason added a spectacular fall-away jump shot and forward Scott Colley found the bottom of the net from deep and the Dragons closed out the quarter with a 47-41 advantage.
Mulberry switched to a 3-2 zone in the final minutes, which was probably the worst defensive set to run against the Dragons.
Anfernee Munnings attacked the paint relentlessly, slicing up the Panthers defense with easy. Munnings drives further opened up the Dragons offense, as he either found open teammates for the easy layup or drew the foul and scored on his own.
One score came on a swooping layup, where Munnings laid the ball in after taking a midair collision. The spectacular play was enough to make even Connie Hawkins envious.
"We were just going to attack, attack, attack," Coomes said. "When they went into that zone, we went at them from the point guard. And we either had the wing open or the other guard wide open every time."
Tuason led the Dragons in scoring with 19 points. Munnings followed with 15 while Kaetwon Lowe added a quiet 12 points. Colley contributed nine points.
The Dragons faced Avon Park for the third time this season. The Red Devils swept the regular season series, winning handily each time. But this is the first time the Dragons will play them with a completely healthy roster.
"Maybe the third time is the charm," Coomes said. "They are a much different team than Mulberry. They're going to come out physical and they've got good athletes. I've got to prepare them a lot better than I did tonight."