TAMPA — When Sickles star senior John Henson turned spectator Tuesday night, the Gryphons' bench picked up the slack.
Henson, the blue-chip North Carolina signee who transferred from Texas this year, was forced to the bench midway through the third quarter of Sickles' home opener against Hillsborough after aggravating a left ankle sprain.
But his replacement, 6-foot-4 center Niko Cora, scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to ignite a slow-starting offense in the Gryphons' 58-47 win over the Terriers.
"As soon I have my opportunity out there, I have to take advantage of it," said Cora, a starter last season.
The 6-foot-10 Henson made an impact early, blocking seven Hillsborough shots in the first half, but the Gryphons sputtered offensively — and started 1-for-11 from the free-throw line — as the scrappy Terriers led for most of the first half and took a 25-24 lead into halftime.
"We're still trying to develop some chemistry," Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said. "We're definitely not at the point where we totally know how to use (Henson). That's going to come with more time together. In the time being it's nice to know that we have guys who can step up and make a play."
Henson turned his ankle early in the second half, and Garcia pulled him midway through the quarter. The Gryphons then opened the fourth with a 12-6 run that helped them pull away.
"The ankle feels better now," said Henson, who was held to six points. "It was swelling during the game, and the tape was tight so that made it very painful."
Said Garcia: "We could tell he was laboring and we decided it was time to shut it down."
But it was the second time in as many games that Sickles' bench added a jolt. In the Gryphons' 36-point win over Freedom in Monday's season opener, Chris Velez added 11 points off the bench.
"We're a real deep team," said junior point guard Jordan Davis, who had a team-high 17 points. "Today it was Niko. Yesterday it was Chris Velez. Tomorrow it can be someone else."