LAND O'LAKES — When point guard Robert Carrero drove to the basket and hit fellow senior Mike Francis with a nifty behind-the-back pass in the third quarter, the trickery was just one of many examples of how in synch Mitchell's up-tempo offense was Wednesday night.
In fact, second-half free throws might have been the only shots that were not going in as Mitchell cruised 86-60 over Zephyrhills in the first round of the Sunlake New Year's Invitational.
In today's semifinals, the Mustangs face Ridgewood, which beat Springstead 54-29. Zephyrhills and Springstead will meet in the consolation round.
The loss for the Bulldogs was overshadowed by the absence of their longtime coach, Alan Reed, who was not at the game due to a death in the family.
No timetable has been set for Reed's return.
"I think the guys were affected by Coach not being there," acting coach Tim O'Conner said.
"But we will be back (today), and it is a new day and new game. And hopefully, we perform better."
Turnovers plagued the Bulldogs (8-5) throughout. They turned it over 30 times compared with Mitchell's 13.
But the second quarter might have taken the wind out of Zephyrhills' sails. With 5:06 left and the scored tied at 22, the Mustangs (7-4) began a 16-0 run that gave them a 38-22 halftime lead.
Mitchell's lead ballooned to 32 in the third quarter before it inserted its backups. (It could have been worse, but the Mustangs made only 3 of 10 free throws in the second half.)
Mitchell guard Chad Jeckel scored a game-high 25 points. Kyle Farrell led Zephyrhills with 16 points.
"We have some quick, scrappy guys," Mitchell coach Jared St. Charles said. "And our goal is to win this tournament."
Other tournament games: Sunlake beat Gulf 54-47 behind Tyler Hisamoto's 22 points. It faces the winner of Wednesday's late game between Wesley Chapel and Bradenton IMG Academy. Gulf faces the loser of the game.