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North boys hoops playing catch up
December 6, 2017

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The North Fort Myers High School football team made a habit this season out of pounding the ball up the middle, gaining valuable yardage while eventually beating down their opposition.

About three-fourths of the players on this season's boys basketball team are comprised of those kids and, after a run into the second round of this year's football playoffs, that left little time for the team to form a cohesive unit.

Nobody knows that more than head basketball coach Mack Mitchell, who also served this season as the defensive coordinator for the football team. After the season ended Nov. 17, he gave his team Thanksgiving week off to allow the football players a chance to heal before taking to the court.

The result was a team that got a total of two practices in before the start of the season this past week. And against Palmetto Ridge, Cape Coral and Lemon Bay, the lack of practice showed as they were beaten in all three games, two of which were district contests.

In the Lemon Bay game, it was the Manta Rays who gave the Red Knights a lesson in pounding the ball, basketball style, getting to the free throw line early and often while putting North's best players on the bench with foul trouble in an 82-55 victory.

The Manta Rays got a huge night from center Tyler Caron, who scored 19 points, many of them at the line, and 17 from Hayden Wolff in much the same fashion.

Mitchell, despite the defeat, said the team has shown marked improvement during the week and that it's easy for outsiders to say North is having a tough go of it.

"Being on the outside looking in, you could say it was a rough night. Right now, where we stand, I saw a lot of growth in our guys," Mitchell said. "Three-fourths of our guys got out here just before Thanksgiving break. We knew it would be a tough time from the lack of preparation time we had."

Lemon Bay took a double-digit lead early in the second quarter and North never got closer than that as they pulled away in the second half.

Not surprisingly, among the best players on the floor for North on Thursday was someone who did not wear a helmet in the fall. Senior Ty Flinders led the way with 19 points before eventually fouling out. Four players were next for North with six points.

Lemon Bay coach Sean Huber said he was sure that the next time they face each other in late January, the Knights will be a much different team.

"They're a really athletic team with a lot of returning players. They've put some time in together as a team and they'll be a much different team in February," Huber said. "We needed to establish our dominance in the paint and get those guys to collapse their defense on us and open our outside shooters."

Mitchell said he expects North to continue to improve as the season goes on.

"From where we started to where we are now, it may look rough, but I see steps going forward and I believe if we continue to grow, I think we can be a very competitive team later in the year," Mitchell said.

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