BROOKSVILLE — Without second-leading scorer Mark Wilson, out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, Hernando hasn’t been the same.
Eustis took advantage of the still-transitioning Leopards in a 70-57 victory Tuesday night to secure second place in Class 5A, District 7.
Hernando (13-5, 5-4) began the game well enough, knocking down the first two shots, both 3-pointers, to jump out to a 6-0 lead. The Leopards ended up with six 3s in the opening period and led 14-11.
All of a sudden, things went cold. Leopard guards Giovanni Perez and Jeff Velasquez had more difficulty finding shots as Eustis (13-8, 8-2) locked down on the perimeter. As impatience settled in, Hernando tried to force the ball more, leading to 24 turnovers for the Leopards.
“The game plan coming in was to slow it down, and when we did that early we were getting shots,” Hernando coach Mark Latsko said. “When we started to speed ourselves up, that’s when we started to turn the ball over.”
The team did a solid job defensively in the halfcourt, holding leading scorer Dustin Dunham to only five points after he came in averaging 17.7. However, steals on one end led to fastbreak points at the other for Eustis. K.C. Coleman (21 points, four assists, four steals), Antwon Clayton (14 points, two steals, one block), and Jaylon Graham (15 points) finished in double figures.
Velasquez (29 points, six assists, four steals) and Perez (15 points, nine rebounds, three steals) accounted for 44 of Hernando’s 57 points. This was even more noteworthy when taking into account that Perez fouled out with seven minutes remaining.
Wilson was injured in a 55-49 win at Springstead on Dec. 21. Coming into that game, the Leopards were 6-2 and averaging a 12.4-point margin of victory. Despite respectable 7-3 mark since his absence, the team has been outscored by 1.3 points per game.
“We are who we are,” Latsko said. “We know our opponents, and we know how we match up. We just have to make the plays if we’re going to get where we need to go.”