BROOKSVILLE — Up until Tuesday night, not many would have considered Hernando one of the better teams on the North Suncoast.
The Leopards continued to clear that up with a convincing 81-65 victory in their home opener over Crystal River.
Hernando (4-0, 3-0) used its press to jump out to a 10-2 lead. When the first quarter was over, Crystal River (4-4, 1-3) was down 27-18 with Giovanni Perez leading the way for the Leopards. The senior guard scored 12 in the period.
Perez finished with a game-high 24 points to go with six rebounds and five steals as the sparkplug for Hernando’s attack. All of his offense came over the course of three quarters as he was held scoreless in the second.
“This was a breakout game for Giovanni,” Hernando coach Mark Latsko said. “He must really like playing at home. It’s not that he played poorly in the first three games, but tonight he was knocking down his jumper.”
Once the ball got moving, most of the Leopards’ starting rotation got involved. Jeff Velasquez scored 16 to go with eight assists. Mark Wilson, the team’s leading scorer coming into the contest averaging 20.6 points, netted 16 with five steals. The other valuable piece of the Hernando puzzle was forward Ra’shaad Hart, who scored eight and grabbed eight boards with three blocks.
The defense played a major role as well. The focus on containing Crystal River guard Ty Reynolds, who came in averaging 22.4 points, was at the forefront of the game plan.
“We wanted to make him work to get the ball up the court,” Latsko said. “I think we did a good job of that for the most part.”
Reynolds didn’t score his first points until there was less than a minute remaining in the first quarter. He finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, most of his scoring coming in later parts of the fourth when the outcome had already been decided.