LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Out-of-Door Academy boys basketball team is all too familiar with the defensive efforts of Sarasota Christian.
Prior to the end of last season, it wasn’t uncommon for the Blazers to beat the Thunder by 25 points — at the very least. But in last year’s district tournament, ODA showed marked improvement, playing a hard game and pulling within 10 points of their rivals.
It was the closest ODA had ever come to defeating Sarasota Christian, so when the Thunder played host to their former district rivals Dec. 14, they couldn’t help but feel somewhat confident knowing they were capable of competing with the Blazers.
Sarasota jumped out to an early 21-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but ODA bounced back, pulling within a point of the Blazers to open the fourth quarter. However, Sarasota Christian never relinquished its lead, pulling off a 54-46 victory over ODA (2-5, 2-1 Class 2A-District 11).
“I just think mentally, our guys when we fell behind thought, ‘This shouldn’t be happening to us,’ as opposed to in the past where we might’ve gone, ‘Oh here is goes again,’” ODA coach Jason Peters said. “We’re just a better basketball team now, and once we get everyone healthy and playing and get our big man in the lineup, then I think we’ll be in good shape.”
After trailing 35-26 at halftime, the Thunder went on a 10-2 run to close out the third quarter, cutting Sarasota Christian’s lead to 41-40. It was the closest ODA would come to taking its first lead of the game.
ODA senior guard Steve LaFrance led all scorers with 19 points. Senior guard Andrew McInnis added 13 points for the Thunder followed by senior guard Stephen Berg with 10, sophomore guard Brian Ragone with two and junior forward Zack Urow with two.
Senior guard Chase Miller led the way for Sarasota Christian with 18 points followed by senior center Trevor Talkie with 17 points.
“They always play great defense,” LaFrance said of Sarasota Christian. “They have a productive offense. They work the ball. I guess it’s just kind of a rivalry game too, so everyone gets hyped up about it.
“(But) I’m not satisfied at all,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what an individual does. It’s more about how the team does. I want to help contribute and do whatever I can to help the team win, but in the end it’s still a win or a loss.”
ODA was playing without a good portion of its roster, as the Thunder are still trying to get all of their players back from football, including senior center Jamie Onufrak who didn’t suit up for Monday night’s game, but is expected to return next semester.
“When you get four of our top six players back from football that didn’t get in until Dec. 4, and they haven’t practiced or done anything … really it just takes awhile to get in the groove,” Peters said. “But the tournaments are in February, and that’s what we’re kind of aiming for.”
ODA returns to action in the Smoothie King Classic Dec. 28 at Bradenton Christian.
Contact Jen Blanco at email@example.com.
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