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LECANTO - The Panthers ran into a towering roadblock Thursday night to open the Lecanto Holiday Classic. That roadblock was Bayshore center Martres Hopson.
Despite holding a slim lead for more than three quarters, Lecanto fell 67-62. The Bruins hung around for the entire game thanks to Hopson.
"We missed a whole lot of easy shots in the first half," Bayshore coach Chris Brady said. "We talked at halftime, and I think that's when we really turned it around."
Hopson, Bayshore's leading scorer, was without his partner in crime, power forward Chris Chawi (15 points per game). With added pressure on him to dominate the paint, the center responded with a Herculean effort. He dropped in 22 points and snatched 20 rebounds.
Add to that the defensive presence he provided around the hoop with three blocks, and Hopson was easily the most valuable player.
The Bruins (4-7) also had formidable performances from the supporting cast. Point guard Phil Garrett and power forward Breon Balsai each chipped in 11 points.
"Balsai started in place of Chawi and did a really good job," Brady said, "and Garrett really pushed the ball; that's where we had our biggest advantage."
Lecanto (7-2) was led by its starters. Point guard Mychal Nichols struggled from 3-point territory, but still had eight points and a game-high nine assists.
Power forward Eddie Buckley led the team with 17 points, and shooting guard Ryan Blakeslee (11 points, nine rebounds) and small forward Richard Chaney (10 points, eight rebounds) both made key contributions.
In the opening game, South Sumter outmanned Ridge Community 44-15.
The Bolts, a first-year program that made the trip all the way from Polk County, only had a seven-man roster, and the depth of the Raiders proved too much.
South Sumter relied on the interior play of center Brandon Ward, who was the only player to record double figures in scoring, sinking 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He also blocked two shots.
Tonight's games include Bayshore facing South Sumter at 5:30 and Lecanto taking on Ridge Community at 7.