A 32-point game by senior guard Jason Polanco helped keep Coral Shores High’s Hurricanes close in the boys basketball opener Monday, but an early scoring drought by the Hurricanes cost them a 74-63 loss to visiting LaSalle.
LaSalle’s Royals, also playing their first regular-season game, came out of the gate a step quicker and posted a 9-0 run before Polanco put the season’s first Cane points on the scoreboard.
Coral Shores rallied from a 42-30 halftime deficit to cut the margin to seven points with four minutes left, in large part due to strong rebounding. Late foul trouble and missed shots slowed the bid for a comeback.
“Overall, I felt good about what we did,” Cane head coach Jarrod Mandozzi said after his Coral Shores debut. “If we were to play that game with another few weeks of work under our belts, I think we have a good shot to win.”
“Jason Polanco played huge for us,” Mandozzi said. “Once he settled in, he was huge, scoring 32 points and making a few key steals down the stretch.”
The Canes opened the season on the first day back from Thanksgiving break, when practices were few and several players on family trips.
“We started out very sluggish, missing a bunch of easy shots, but I felt good that we were getting the looks we wanted,” Mandozzi said. “We know those shots are ones we typically make.”
“The reality is that if we made free throws and layups [against LaSalle], we likely win,” he said. “We shot 40 percent from the line and probably not much better around the basket. It’s obviously tough to win when we do that.”
LaSalle hit seven 3-pointers in the first half to build their lead, but Polanco and point guard Elijah Woods (eight points) also connected from outside the arc. “Elijah was also big for us, handling the other team’s pressure and getting us into our offense,” said the coach.
Coral Shores fields a team with front-court size as Tim Orr, Connor Rhyne, Robbie Prosek and Valente Reynoso battle for rebounds. “We did a solid job on the boards,” Mandozzi said. Zech Rock picked off “a couple of key steals that got us going.”
The Hurricanes took on Sports Leadership Academy in Tuesday’s opening round a tournament at Palmer Trinity (results pending) and are scheduled to face the host Falcons today. Coral Shores travels to Redland Christian Academy next Monday.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206