NEW PORT RICHEY — For a brief time Thursday, unbeaten Mitchell faltered. Host Gulf caught fire from 3-point range, cutting a 14-point lead in half midway through the third.
Lawrence Watt added to the Bucs' hope by blowing a breakaway dunk, and the Mustangs needed a timeout.
But Mitchell regrouped, especially Watt. The junior scored a career-high 34 points to lead the Mustangs to an 83-66 win.
A simple message from coach Jared St. Charles during the timeout — "We're being stupid. Let's get out of this." — resounded. The Mustangs (9-0) finished the quarter by making 7 of 9 shots to take a 62-43 lead and cruised the rest of the way.
"I felt bad for even trying the dunk. But we came back as a team, and that's what matters," said Watt, a forward who shot 15-for-20 mostly from the paint and had 12 rebounds (seven offensive) and a team-high five assists.
Bernie Conley scored 18 to help Mitchell take a 43-29 halftime lead.
But Gulf got 3s from James Grubb, Joey Nickerson and Leigh Hollenbeck in cutting the margin to 47-40. After the timeout, Gulf gained more momentum when Karl Lakos blocked Zach Rapaport's shot. But on the inbounds, Brian Powers fed Watt inside to calm down Mitchell.
That started a 9-0 run, and even after Gulf ended it, the Mustangs got a four-point trip with Watt doing the damage.
Grubb scored 26 for the Bucs (6-4), three above his average. Conley finished 25 while Rapaport had 15 to go with eight rebounds and six steals.
And Watt got some closure on the missed dunk, flushing one down with 1:30 left.
Mitchell turned the ball over only seven times.
"We spent so much time on that. I rant and rave every practice about turnovers," St. Charles said.
"The fast pace we play, to only have seven turnovers, well that's how we want to play."
Hollenbeck made three 3s in scoring 11, and Gulf hit 8-of-16 from long range.