Overflow crowds for regular season high school boys basketball games are a rarity in Southwest Florida.
Tuesday afternoon provided just such a unique opportunity for visiting Mariner and Riverdale, who faced off for an in-school game before a raucous crowd in the Raider Rock Gym.
The Tritons (2-0), led by junior forward Rodney Hunter, thrived in the hostile environment, draining 10 3-pointers in a 65-43 victory.
“I’m glad administrators are open to this because it’s a really great experience for the kids,” Mariner coach James Harris said. “It’s good to play in that type of atmosphere because that’s what you get in district championship games and the state playoffs.”
Gunning for their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, the Tritons grabbed control of Tuesday’s game with an 21-5 first-half run that turned a one-point deficit into a 29-15 advantage with three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Hunter, a 6-foot-5 junior, had two sensational blocks during the surge, both of which prevented Riverdale layups.
“Those were good but Coach Harris doesn’t like it when I do that,” Hunter said. “He’d rather have me take the charge.”
Harris explained his position of Hunter’s defensive erasures.
“I’d rather him not be in position to take a charge and settle for the block,” Harris said with a smile. “But those were big momentum shifts for us. That wiped out four points and he did it without picking up a foul.”
It’s easy to understand why Harris doesn’t want Hunter in foul trouble. He led all scorers with 26 points, including five 3-pointers.
“My biggest thing is I have to be consistent,” Hunter said. “Right now, I’m a streak shooter. If I’ve got it going, I’m good. But you can never stop getting better.”
Senior forward Austin Tindle led the Raiders (0-4) with 13 points, while junior Toran Bridley added 11, including nine in the opening quarter.
Lehigh 84, Riverdale 61
Riverdale had to quickly regroup and prepare for a game against Lehigh (6-0). Lehigh guard B.J. Edwards scored a game-high 29 points, while teammates Stefon Strawder and Jarvis Martin netted 11 apiece. Austin Tindle led Riverdale with 15 points.