Forget the pregame movie.
Before Tuesday's meeting against Lecanto, basketball coach Jimmy Thomas and his assistants pulled out a tape and stuck it into the VCR. It was footage from recent Citrus games, or rather Exhibit A as to why the Hurricanes had slumped badly after a 3-0 start.
"Kids always see themselves as playing hard and doing their best," Thomas said. "But we looked at the video and it showed that, hey, there's more you can do. I think it opened up some eyes."
A few hours later, the 'Canes defeated rival Lecanto 75-53. The Panthers beat Citrus by 17 points in December and had won seven straight.
"The bottom line is that they outplayed us in every phase," Lecanto coach Chris Nichols said.
That was a welcome sight for Thomas.
The Hurricanes had dropped eight of 10. Many of the defeats were close (two went to overtime), but Citrus just was not getting it done.
"It was a lot of the same things game after game," Thomas said. "Turnovers. Not handling the ball. Poor passing. Shot selection. Not blocking out. If I knew why these things were happening, I would have stopped it eight games ago.
"It's been frustrating for all of us, not just me. The guys are frustrated. They know they can perform better."
In the earlier defeat to Lecanto, the Hurricanes at times looked as if they were stuck in mud. Players moved little without the ball, and most of the rebounds went to the Panthers.
But Tuesday night, it was a complete reversal of fortune.
Citrus outshot and outfought the Panthers. Want a key stat? The 'Canes grabbed 32 defensive rebounds.
"Sometimes you get in a rut and you look for a way to come out of it," Thomas said. "All of a sudden the timing was right, and it was against our county rival. That's always a big game for us."
The question now is this: Can the Hurricanes (6-8, 4-5 in Class 4A, District 9) build on the victory?
"If not, we're in trouble," Thomas said.
"You've got to make right choices on the court. I'm a very simple coach. Our philosophy is simple. The ball tells you what to do. All five have to move with the ball. When one or two are not, it throws everything off. That's pretty much what happened to us."
DOUBLE DOSE: The girls basketball squad is getting nice production from senior guard-forward Alexsia Love (12 points a game) and sophomore guard Ashley Hoglund (10 points).
"They're both pretty good players," coach Cheri Martone said. "Ashley is a great young player. She has good court vision, can rebound and is very unselfish. She definitely has a good future."
_ Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or niebuhrsptimes.com. Coaches can report results to 800-333-7505, ext. 8123.