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Posted On: 12/7/18 9:27 PM
Trailing 53-37 after the third quarter, it sure looked like Countryside couldn’t rally back.
However, the new look Cougars filled with underclassmen cut the deficit to just three points 57-54 with roughly three minutes left in the game.
In a Class 8A-District 10 tilt, East Lake outlasted the home side Cougars outscoring Countryside 11-4 from that point on to win 68-58.
Here are five takeaways from the night.
Slowing down Dionte Blanch is never a fun task. The 2020 6’3″ guard is a natural athlete who certainly put on a show offensively in the first quarter. Scoring 14 of his game-high 22 points in the opening quarter, Blanch did basically anything he wanted as an attacker in transition, jump shooter and from 3-point land. Although he scored only eight points over the other three quarters, Blanch is a high IQ player who makes plays defensively and takes care of the ball on offense. He’s just hitting the peak of his talents.
Perhaps if Mikey Shane was knocking down more shots in the opening half, this game would be have been a bit closer. Regardless, the 2021 6’1″ proved why he’s one of the top up and coming players in the St. Pete/Clearwater area. Building off strong moments in the spring and summer, Shane led his team with 17 points. He had eight points in the fourth quarter and 13 of his 17 overall in the second half. Look for Shane to continue to mature.
The pairing of 2021 6’3″ guard Dean Gabrelcik and 2020 5’7″ guard Jordan Hillmon is fun to watch. Both players are high-end passers who bring a ton to the plate alongside lead man Blanch. Gabrelcik is at his best as a mid-range and spot up 3-point shooter. The sophomore ended the night with 11 points. Hillmon is dangerous as an attacker and from deep. He had nine of his 13 points in the second quarter alone.
Alongside Shane, Countryside creates energy from 2019 6’3″ guard Jared McGarrity (10 points), 2020 6’4″ guard Alex Vitucci (13 points) and 2020 6’2″ guard Max Thorpe (five points). McGarrity gets to the free throw line often with his willingness to fight inside and he can shoot well from deep. Vitucci was catching fire in the second half and had some really big jumpers for his side. Thorpe helps Shane out as a lead ballhandler throughout games.
Countryside pressured the Eagles time and time again in the fourth quarter and frustrated Blanch and company. With Hilmon fouling out midway through the final quarter, it was all on Blanch and Gabrelcik to create openings and they were hard to come by. Mixing and matching the duo as lead ballhandlers could do East Lake wonders in those situations. Blanch handled the pressure well and didn’t turn it over much, but Countryside knew what look was coming each time down the floor. East Lake should keep improving with more creativity down the stretch of games.