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Friday, Jul 03, 2015

Streaks rip Manta Rays Sebring beats Lemon Bay to stay unbeaten in districts

BY Brandon Howard
Highlands Today


SEBRING - It's a general rule in basketball that whichever team wins the third quarter usually wins the game.

Friday night against Lemon Bay, Sebring won the third quarter - and then some.

In their second home game following Thanksgiving break, the Blue Streaks dominated the Manta Rays, and won going away by a score of 88-72 to improve to 2-0 in Class 5A-District 11 games this season. The victory puts the Streaks at 4-1 on the year overall, while the loss dropped Lemon Bay to 2-3 and 1-1.

"It was a very good win," said Sebring coach Princeton Harris. "Lemon Bay beat Hardee by 30 points a few nights ago. But sometimes I saw us getting away from what we do offensively, and I had to tell them, we're getting out of character."

From the crooked numbers on the scoreboard, though, it seemed that the Streaks offense was anything but out of character. After a low-scoring first quarter where neither team was able to find the bottom of the net, Sebring exploded for 30 points in the second period.

Connor Cook got his jumper going, Jordan Strickland was deadly from 3-point range and the few misses were gobbled up for second chance points by the Streaks' sizable front line of Rolando Powery, Gary Demarest and Luke Ancrum.

Five Sebring players scored in double figures. Cook led the way for the Streaks with a game-high 23 points, followed by Strickland, who netted 13. Demarest added 10, Ancrum scored 11 and snagged 9 rebounds and Powery notched a double-double of 11 points and 18 rebounds, adding six blocks for good measure.

Ryan Straub was the high-scorer for Lemon Bay, putting in 20 points. Joe Garza followed him with 17, while Montrel Jackson scored 12.

Sebring extinguished any hopes Lemon Bay had for a comeback in the second half. Already leading by 12 heading into the third quarter, the Streaks opened with an 8-0 run after pressure in the backcourt forced the Manta Rays into a handful of turnovers.

A Lemon Bay time out did little to stem the onslaught, as the Streaks led by as much as 55-36 before putting in their second string.

Despite the solid performance he got from his team, Harris noted that there's still room for improvement.

"We turned the ball over in a couple of key situations," he said. "And when we did, Lemon Bay turned those into points - two 3-pointers and a two-point shot. We've got to cut down on that." It's these minute details that Harris said can really disrupt the offensive flow.

"We just need to stay within what we do offensively," he said. "When we're running our offense right and scoring, we don't need guys to do what they want to do. We need to stay within our system to stay efficient."

Although pointing out the flaws in his team is critical to Harris' job as a coach, he still had heaps of praise for his players. "Jordan is really playing with a lot of confidence," Harris said. "That's what we want for these guys. We build them up and they'll continue to get better."

Reining in Cook is another problem altogether, though.

"It's a tough job," Harris said jokingly. "But he's just a sophomore, and as a coach, I have to remind myself that he's still young."

Sebring's next game is at Class 4A Clewiston on Tuesday night.

A nondistrict opponent, the Tigers are the first of back-to-back road games for the Streaks.

Following its game in Clewiston, Sebring will be at DeSoto on Friday for a rubber match. The Streaks won the earlier meeting, 67-60, and will be looking to sweep the Bulldogs in district play this season.

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