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Tigers cruise past Panthers boys 89-67

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Lecanto basketball falls to 1-2 in district play

By Sean Arnold

LECANTO — On a night Lecanto would just as soon forget, the Dunnellon boys basketball team showed it’s currently the team to beat in District 5A-6. The Tigers led by 31 points with 1:39 remaining after going 11 for 20 from 3-point range in the Panther gym, and prevailed 89-67 to secure their fifth straight win since a now-ancient 0-2 start. 

Dunnellon (5-2) improves to 2-0 in the four-team district after handing Citrus its only loss a week ago. The Panthers fall to 5-3 and sit third in the 5A-6 standings at 1-2.

DHS jumped ahead 7-2 in the opening minutes, before the Panthers steadied themselves into a 16-14 deficit behind 10 first-quarter points from junior forward Darius Sawyer, who finished with a game-high 25. 

But it was clearly Desmond Frazier and Dunnellon’s night, as the elusive 6-foot wingman landed a trio of 3s in the first half in helping his bunch go ahead 36-21 by the break on the heels of a 20-7 second-quarter advantage. 

The junior paced his Tigers with 21 points and added four steals. 

(Frazier) is a pretty good player,” Lecanto head coach Jeff Anderson said. “He was coming off that screen at the top of the key and just draining them.”

Dunnellon found lots of good looks both behind the arc and at the boards off a variety of potent dishes against a LHS squad that’s staked its pride on defense this season under Anderson.

“That’s a great team,” Anderson said of Dunnellon. “There’s a reason they’re No. 1 in the district now. They knock down open shots and make the extra pass — a very skilled team. They beat us handily. The defense we’ve stressed all year long, the mindset, wasn’t there.”

Dunnellon had three additional players — junior Stacin Bishop (19 points), sophomore Darion Baker (15 points) and junior Will Thomas (12 points) — post double-digit in scoring. Thomas had a game-high 10 boards, and Bishop knocked down four 3s over a nine-minute span that covered most of the third quarter. 

“When you make shots, you look good,” Dunnellon head coach Travis Licht said. “I thought we did a good job keeping our heads up on the transition, and I thought we did a good job executing in the half-court. 

“It all started on the defensive end,” he added. “Lecanto is tough to match up with, with (junior Brandon) Burich and Sawyer. I knew if we took care of our defensive assignments, that we’d get some looks in transition.

“It’s hard to win (at Lecanto). I like where we’re at right now, but we have a lot of basketball left to play.”

Sawyer and Burich (23 points, seven rebounds), who tallied 17 points in the second half, didn’t get as much offensive help as the Tiger shooters enjoyed. Outside of those two standouts, no other Panther scored more than three points. 

As a team, Lecanto missed 21 3-pointers and was out-rebounded 34-21.

“In that first half, we were jacking up the ball and all Dunnellon was doing was sagging off of us,” Anderson said. “We were settling for shots early in our possessions, which is very uncharacteristic of what we’ve been trying to do. We didn’t run our sets well tonight. Usually we shoot very well, and we didn’t tonight.”

Lecanto plays at Williston 8:30 p.m. tonight, while Dunnellon heads to Ocala to take on St. John Lutheran.