INVERNESS — Another Friday night, another 40-point win over a county rival.
One week to the day after downing Crystal River by 41 points, 82-41, Lecanto spoiled Senior Night for Citrus by handing the host Hurricanes a 89-47 defeat on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.
“I thought our energy level at the beginning of the game was unbelievable. But it’s been that way all year long,” Lecanto head coach Frank Vilardi said. “Our kids play hard, they play smart and they play together. We share the ball. Nick Post has kind of taken a secondary role offensively, but tonight he had it going on. So the kids went with him. It’s whoever’s night it is.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to have a good year. That’s all we’ve done. We need to continue to work. Like I tell the kids, we’ve got to continue to work every day to get better. All we’ve done right now is put ourselves in position. But yeah, we want to be the best team in the county, there’s no doubt about it. That’s our goal. We played really, really well tonight. I was very, very happy about our effort.”
Post certainly paced a scorching start for the Panthers (8-0, 4-0 Gulf Coast 8). He scored nine quick points to help Lecanto to a 14-4 advantage at 4:50 in the first quarter. By the 3-minute mark it was a 26-6 lead on a layup by D.J. Smith.
Josh Berrios buried a 3-pointer at 3:36 in the second quarter to open up a 46-16 edge and prompt a timeout by Citrus (1-5, 1-3 GC8). Only a few seconds later Darius Gainer stole the ball and knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to make it 49-16, and the ’Canes once again called timeout.
Multiple times in the final minutes of the first half the Panthers led by 35, though a couple late baskets before halftime made it 57-26 and allowed Citrus to briefly stave off a running clock to start the third quarter.
Within the first two minutes, though, Lecanto got the necessary 35-point margin to initiate the running clock. The Panthers still managed to score 32 points over the swiftly played second half.
Post finished with a double-double, 24 points and 10 rebounds, to go along with five steals.
“It feels great. To come out and get a county game, beat them, it’s great,” Post said. “Coach said, ‘Come out and play your position. Then for the next couple of years know where their place is and destroy the competition’ I felt like we did. Especially me and Josh, and Darius, all my teammates. They came out hot and they expected to play, expected to win.”
Berrios ended up with 19 points, hitting on three of the team’s seven 3-pointers, and he also had five steals. Gainer tallied 14 points and four steals, and Smith had 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Jason Grace led Citrus with 15 points. Seniors Alex Mendigutia added 13 points and eight rebounds, and Trey Kovach scored 12 points. Wyatt Zacke pulled down 10 rebounds.
It was a tough night for the ’Canes, who decided to celebrate their seniors early in the season as a precaution in case COVID-19 shuts things down. The virus put the team in quarantine for two weeks during preseason and the impact remains significant.
“We’re still not really ready to play,” Citrus head coach Tom Densmore said. “We didn’t get any preseason games. We lost all those practices. So at this point we’re playing three games a week. We’ve only had four practices. So we’re still working on things.
“Lecanto’s I think right now playing with a lot of confidence. Until a team loses a game they don’t feel like they can be beat and I feel like that’s the way they’re playing right now. I don’t think they think anyone can beat them, and they may be right. But as long as you’ve got that mindset, it makes them really tough.”