INVERNESS — Citrus had a point to prove, and made sure to get it across on Friday night.
In a boys basketball county rivalry that hasn’t gone their way often in recent seasons, the Hurricanes have turned the tables on Crystal River in this campaign, and finished off a two-game sweep of the visiting Pirates with a 78-55 victory.
Coupled with a 69-56 win at Crystal River on Dec. 18, Citrus (11-10) captured the season series against the Pirates (2-15) for the first time since 2013-14.
"I loved that we got off to a really good start," Citrus head coach Tom Densmore said. "The first half, I don’t know that we’ve played better. We found the open guy on offense, we stopped them and rebounded well on defense. It was probably the most complete half that we’ve had.
"When we played over there, some people seemed to think that who the better team was, was in doubt, because they tightened it up in the fourth quarter. So we kind of wanted to make sure tonight that the whole game there was no doubt."
The ’Canes were particularly dominant in the first quarter, outscoring Crystal River, 23-6, and led 41-16 by halftime. Trey Kovach paced Citrus with 15 points in the half, and Alex Mendigutia had 10.
"I feel like I played pretty good," Kovach said. "At times I had rough spots in the game, but my team picked me up and they played good all game. They played defense, got rebounds, they did it all.
"Just energy, man; just the fans, the game, everyone just helped us."
In the second half the Pirates picked things up offense, particularly from beyond the arc knocking down six 3-pointers. Ethan Nicoleau had four of those 3s, and scored all 14 of his points over the final two quarters.
However, Citrus maintained a comfortable advantage and pulled away in the fourth as Kovach began to aggressively attack the basket and had 10 points in the period. He ended the game with 25 points, six assists and five steals.
"It means big-time. If we won by two or 30, it still feels the same. It just feels great to get a win against a county school," Kovach said. "I feel like right now we’re starting to click, which is good because it’s towards the end of the season. So I’m feeling real good about a playoff run."
Matthew White had a double-double for the ’Canes with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and added three blocks. Mendigutia scored 19 points to go with eight boards.
This finished off a stellar penultimate week of the regular season for Citrus, which went 3-0.
"It’s been a rollercoaster. When you beat a team like South Sumter on Wednesday, certainly it gives you a bunch of confidence. So we came off of that game and kept playing at that level," Densmore said.
"What I told them before the game is, no matter who the opponent is at this point of the year we’ve got to keep that level up. Because we’re going to play a bunch of different people, and then the district tournament is going to come along and you don’t know who you’re going to play. So we’ve got to make sure we keep our level up and play at the level we played at South Sumter."
Hudson Copeland led the Pirates with 20 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Spencer Green had 10 points and eight rebounds.