The Lehigh Senior High School boys basketball team reeled off 18 wins last year only to see the season abruptly end with a loss to Lely in the district tournament.
That painful memory serves as a driving force and a rallying cry for this year’s edition of the Lightning.
“That’s been kind our mantra since Christmas break: ‘Remember the sting; never again,’ ” Lehigh coach Dawn McNew said. “We know we came up short, and it’s something we’re not going to forget.”
The Lightning took another small step toward erasing that shortcoming Friday, overcoming a slow start to blow past visiting Palmetto Ridge, 73-53, in a District 6A-12 game.
Lehigh (15-4, 3-1) got a huge boost from 6-foot-5 freshman forward Jarvis Martin, who poured in 13 of his 16 points in the second quarter, helping the Lightning build a 36-18 halftime lead. The Bears (9-9, 3-3) never got any closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Lehigh’s improved depth has been a key to the team’s fast start this season. While senior guard BJ Edwards can still fill it up — he leads the team in scoring, averaging 20.9 points per game and had a game-high 19 Friday — he’s got more options to help shoulder the load.
“Every game this season it seems like we’ve had somebody step up,” McNew said. “It’s really taken a lot of the pressure off of BJ; we don’t need to rely on him so heavily any more. It’s helped make him a better player.”
Edwards, who has signed with Bowling Green, said he believes Lehigh is peaking at the right time and is hoping to help guide the Lightning to their first district title in 10 years.
“As a senior, I’d like to go out with a bang,” he said. “I’m going to try and do everything in my power to help us keep playing as long as we can.”
Edwards is also approaching a personal milestone — Lehigh’s all-time scoring record. He’s 84 points shy of surpassing former Lightning standout Marcel Pestano’s record of 1,710.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Edwards said. “Really the only goal is winning the district. Everything else is just extra.”