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WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch played with brutal force on opening night.
Full-court pressure, 3-point baskets and an all-out assault using all but one player led to a 73-41 victory against Mitchell on the Bulls’ home floor Tuesday night.
One fan began chanting for a state title, but this wasn’t a flawless performance by any means.
Wiregrass Ranch was 13-for-28 from the free-throw line and struggled when Mitchell adjusted to the Bulls’ fullcourt pressure in the third quarter.
“It’s a nice victory, a wonderful way to start the season,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Greg Finkle said. “… But you can’t miss free throws against upper echelon teams.”
Still, there was plenty to applaud.
Wiregrass Ranch had eight players score five points or more, and was led by Reagan Knapik, who had a game-high 20 points, and Kelly McCaffrey’s 17.
It began with Wiregrass’ 10-2 run before closing out the first quarter 17-4.
Mitchell went on a scoring drought of more than seven minutes before Katelyn O’Brien’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to 10 in the second quarter. O’Brien led the Mustangs with 17 points.
“Tonight, they were lethargic,” Mitchell coach Jacob Tavo said. “… Hopefully we can fix that. All we ask for is not to get outworked, and we got outworked tonight.”
Wiregrass Ranch used a deep bench, one Finkle has said is stocked with players who could start for many North Suncoast teams. He tinkered with his lineup, benching starters in the second half to see if they could respond later in the game.
When Knapik came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 45 seconds left to make it 61-36, it was clear a brief rest wasn’t an issue.
Mitchell had beaten the Bulls the past three years, including a 77-7 drubbing in the Bulls’ first season, Finkle said.
“It wasn’t a vendetta whatsoever,” Finkle said. “It was about seeing how deep we can go. I believe we can run 10 or 11 deep.”