Gulfshore Shootout: Gulf Coast holds off testy Cypress Lake

It was a rare game where both coaches walked away happy at its conclusion.

For Gulf Coast coach Adam Hale, he was elated his team came out with much more passion than it had the night before in its loss to American Heritage in the first round of the Naples Daily News Gulfshore Shootout. The Sharks sprinted out to an 18-point first-half lead in a 77-67 win over Cypress Lake in a consolation game Thursday.

"It was nice to see the guys come out and take control of the game early like that," Hale said. "We figured we'd be able to exploit our size advantage inside, and Dan (Thiewes) had a nice game, much better than the night before."

Thiewes, a 6-foot-8 center, finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. Guard Ryan Bellamy scored a game-high 23 points for the Sharks. Gulf Coast (4-8) advances to play Lemon Bay today at 9 a.m. in the semifinals of the consolation round. Cypress Lake (5-8) faces Naples on Saturday at 10:15 in a third-game guarantee scenario.

Cypress Lake coach Bob Schnepp was elated over his team's second-half effort, in which the Panthers trimmed a double-digit lead to two points early through the fourth quarter.

He was worried coming into the contest that his squad would still be at an emotional low after Wednesday's 93-41 loss to Bishop McNamara (Md.). And for most of the first half, his worst fears were realized as the Sharks took a 33-15 advantage midway through the second quarter.

"When your team takes a beating like that, it sometimes takes awhile to get that confidence back," Schnepp said. "I definitely think that was the case early. We were tentative and we weren't playing very well. Plus, I had put some new offensive sets this week and our guys were unsure of themselves at times, but that's going to happen. The way they fought back in the second half certainly leaves a good taste in our mouths going forward."

Gulf Coast led 42-30 at halftime and opened the fourth quarter up by nine, but Cypress Lake came out on fire and trimmed the deficit to two points in just over a minute. Eric Vandelaar's traditional three-point play made it 61-51, and D.J. Duffey followed with a long-range bomb to make it 61-54. Rodney Davis stole the ball on Gulf Coast's next possession, getting fouled and hitting both free throws to make it 61-56. Another Duffey three-pointer made it 61-59 with 6:21 left.

"When they made that run at us, we weren't doing the things that made us successful in the first half," Hale said. "We settled for far too many outside shots and got away from going to Dan inside."

The Sharks used an 8-2 run to put the game away, with Thiewes and Michael Haight hitting key shots for Gulf Coast.

"So often, you see teams fall behind by a big margin early and make a big run in the second half," Schnepp said. "More often than not, the team that trails falls short because you spend so much energy coming back and by the time you finally exhale, you lose a bit of the edge that brought you back. Still, this was a positive experience for our kids and hopefully they get better as a result of it."

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