When Gulf Coast and Lemon Bay met at the Lely Pepsi Shootout earlier this month, the Manta Rays had no trouble in cruising to a 75-39 victory.
The teams met again Thursday in a consolation semifinal game at the Naples Daily News Gulfshore Shootout at Golden Gate High School, and if not for a controversial technical foul called on the Gulf Coast bench late in regulation, the Sharks may have scored the upset over the talented Manta Rays. Instead, Lemon Bay hit five free throws down the stretch to give themselves a three-point lead.
Gulf Coast's Jared Stressen-Rueter buried a clutch three-pointer to send the game to overtime, where the Manta Rays pulled out a 75-69 victory. Lemon Bay (9-5) faces Erie Cathedral Prep (7-1) in the consolation final today at 1:45 p.m. Gulf Coast fell to 4-9.
The Sharks had the ball up two points with 45.3 seconds remaining when Rossini Morisma was called for an illegal screen, an offensive foul. The Sharks' coaching staff was noticeably upset and immediately called for a technical foul. The call resulted in four made free throws by Lemon Bay's Alex Walker, two for the foul on Morisma and two more for the technical. The Manta Rays got the ball back, and guard Mike Maresca was fouled, sinking one of two to make it 63-60 Lemon Bay.
"We certainly were upset about the illegal screen call, but I don't think it warranted a technical foul, especially given the situation," Gulf Coast Adam Hale said. "One of our assistants threw a clipboard down, maybe that's what got it. Still, I'm not going to stand here and blame the refs for this game. If we had taken care of the ball in the fourth quarter, it wouldn't have come down to that call anyway."
Gulf Coast led 50-39, its biggest advantage of the contest, with just over six minutes to go when the Manta Rays employed a full-court press on every Gulf Coast possession. The Sharks often had trouble breaking the press, committing 12 turnovers in the fourth quarter as Lemon Bay chipped away at the Gulf Coast lead.
"We're a team that likes to control the tempo and we certainly weren't doing it for most of this game," Lemon Bay coach Tom Catanzarite said. "And you have to give Gulf Coast credit for that. I told our kids that the first game we had against these guys was a fluke and it wouldn't be that easy again, but I guess they didn't believe it because we didn't play well for most of this game. We've had several games this season where we lost and we felt like we should have won. This was one we probably should have lost."
With 6-foot-8 center Dan Thiewes suffering from an illness and unable to play most of the second half, the Sharks went with a smaller lineup and got outstanding performances from their bench players. Stressen-Rueter scored 12 points, including bookend threes in the fourth quarter. His first three gave the Sharks the 11-point lead, and the last one tied it to send the game to overtime. Morisma also came up big, scoring 11 points and hitting a big shot which put the Sharks up 60-58 with just over a minute to play.
"With Dan being sick, we needed some production from our bench and we got it in this game," Hale said. "Those kids gave us a definite spark and we're going to need them to play quality minutes from here on out."
Michael Haight led the Sharks with 17 points. Ryan Bellamy added 15 points, scoring 11 points in the third quarter. Gulf Coast outscored Lemon Bay 21-11 in the third to turn a two-point halftime deficit into a 47-39 lead after three.
Walker and Maresca keyed the Manta Rays' fourth quarter comeback, combining for 13 points in the final frame. Walker finished with a game-high 19 points, and Maresca added 17 for the winners.
"I wasn't a happy camper for most of this game, but I was very pleased with how our kids battled back in the fourth quarter. It showed a lot of character, because there were several times where it looked like we were in deep trouble."
Although Lemon Bay had all the momentum heading into the overtime, Gulf Coast didn't give up. Haight's 3-pointer from the left side cut the gap to 71-69 with 48.2 seconds left, but the Manta Rays hit four free throws down the stretch to seal it.
"There were several good things that came out of this game," Hale said. "We had a much better performance against these guys than we did the first time around. We just have to be more consistent at both ends of the floor and we must take better care of the basketball."
Gulf Coast hosts Cape Coral on Jan. 9.
LEMON BAY (75)
Lutz 1 0-0 2; Maresca 5 7-8 17; Walker 5 8-10 19; Piloto 5 2-2 12; Hickman 1 0-0 3; Reed 4 0-0 11; Juste 1 0-0 2; Kisiday 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 18-22 75.
GULF COAST (69)
Arias 0 0-0 0; Jourdan 0 0-0 0; Dunko 1 2-2 4; Stevens 2 0-0 4; Morisma 5 1-2 11; Bellamy 4 6-8 15; Stressen-Reuter 5 0-0 12; Haight 7 1-2 17; Frye 0 0-0 0; Thiewes 3 0-0 6; Liabo 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 10-14 69.
Lemon Bay 13 15 11 24 12 - 75
Gulf Coast 17 9 21 16 6 - 69
Three-pointers: Lemon Bay - Reed (3), Walker, Hickman. Gulf Coast - Stressen-Rueter (2), Haight (2), Bellamy. Team fouls: Gulf Coast 22, Lemon Bay 17. Fouled out: Gulf Coast - Dunko, Bellamy. Technicals: Gulf Coast - Bench.