By Kyle LoJacono
The Wiregrass Ranch boys basketball team defended its home court against Land O’ Lakes with a 51-45 victory Jan. 25.
The Bulls (17-5) were playing their third game in a week, which included an overtime loss to Tampa Catholic, and were also without leading scorer Rico Kerney (22.7 points), who had to leave town for a wedding.
The combination left Wiregrass Ranch’s high-tempo offense, which entered the contest averaging 76.8 points, lacking energy.
“I don’t want to talk too badly because we were bound to have one of these games,” said Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeremy Calzone. “We were playing so good offensively that one night was going to be bad. I think we shot like 25 percent. That’s not normal for us. We’re usually in the 35 to 40 range. When we shoot as many shots as we do and shoot 25 percent, you’re in trouble.”
Senior guard Chris Parra said things were off from the start.
“We didn’t have much energy,” Parra said. “It seemed like we lacked energy in our warm up, and that carried over to game time. We missed a lot of easy layups, and we were just off on offense.”
The Bulls turned to its defense to defeat the Gators (8-10), forcing 26 turnovers and recording 13 defensive rebounds.
“Our defense was much better tonight, however Land O’ Lakes didn’t run the ball like Tampa Catholic did,” Calzone said. “It was one of those things where they slowed down, so we were able to set our defense. Tampa Catholic sped us up, so we had trouble getting in position. Our half-court defense was much better tonight.”
Marcus Guzman gave the defense a boost by picking up a team-high seven steals while rushing Land O’ Lakes into numerous turnovers.
Rickey Ramirez pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, while Elijah Blackman and Guzman each had five.
The offense was led by Larrentz Manora, who scored 18 points and was 7-of-16 from the field with two 3-pointers. The senior guard was welcomed back after missing the last four games while on a trip to Washington D.C. to see Barak Obama’s inauguration.
“He was the freshest guy, and you could tell tonight,” Calzone said. “He’s one of those wildcards for us. If he plays like that, and makes his free throws, he can really help us down the stretch.”
Parra added 14 points while playing point guard for the injured Dimarco Burgess.
“I feel bad because the last three games he’s had to put his scoring to the side to run the offense and hasn’t gotten the same kind of shots he normally does,” Calzone said. “He’s still doing a great job, and that says a lot about him to do whatever we need.”
Guard Mike Obi led the Gators with 18 points, while his brother, center Victor Obi, added 10 and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Wiregrass Ranch played at Mitchell Jan. 28, but results were not available by press time. The Bulls travel to Hudson Jan. 29 and host cross-town rival Wesley Chapel Feb. 1 to close the regular season. Games start at 7:30 p.m.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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