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North boy hoops looks to build momentum

Still-young team looks to set the bar higher this year

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Dec 9, 2020

North Fort Myers High School basketball player Atavious Weaver looks to get to the rim during a home game Tuesday against South Fort Myers.

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There was a lot of celebration after the North Fort Myers boys basketball team won its season opener last week over Gateway, with many thinking that this young team was about to turn the corner.

And then reality set in. This is a young team with some growing to do.

That isn’t to say things have been all bad. The team fought hard in the three games it lost this past week and, after falling behind big, was able to avoid a running clock and make the outcome respectable.

That didn’t make head coach Leland Clifford any happier, though, as he starts his third year rebuilding the program.

Now, he expects results.

“The first year was year zero, last year was year one, and this is the year we’re trying to get going,” Clifford said. “We’re setting the bar high from now on. The previous kids have set us up to get to this point, but I believe we have turned the page.”

The team is led by three sophomores. The offense goes through center Atavious Weaver, who has averaged a 20 points and 10 rebounds early on. Quentin Winbush has the potential to be one of the best shooters in the area, while Santino Arroyo is tenacious on both ends of the floor, Clifford said.

In the opener against Gateway, the Red Knights were able to come from behind in the fourth quarter to win on the road thanks to the work Weaver, who scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and four steals. Wimbush added 12 points.

“It came down to us flying to the ball. We got every 50/50 ball and did a great job locating their shooters,” Clifford said.

Against South Fort Myers, the momentum ground to a halt as the Wolfpack got off to a quick lead and continued to build on it, leading by as much as 32 before taking their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter in a 77-49 beatdown of the Red Knights.

Cade Daugherty led all scorers with 28 points for the Pack. Fenday Cypres added 15 points and five steals, while Anthony Ferguson had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals.

Weaver wiggled out of early foul trouble to score 17 points and grab 14 rebounds.

“We really didn’t get anything going. Their ball pressure was really good We had issues figuring out what we should be running,” Clifford said. “We’ve been able to get the ball inside since there are few people who can guard Atavious. We have to make that more of a priority and be able to move side to side so he can move.”

At home against Riverdale, the Red Knights put themselves in an even bigger hole, falling behind 25-5 after one quarter and digging themselves too big a hole to get out of as the Raiders won, 79-63.

Antonio Paulino had 28 points, Anthony Paulino had 21 and Zach McLeod scored 20 for Riverdale to offset another monster game from Weaver, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds.

On Friday, North visited Cape Coral, which pulled away in the second half for a 64-46 win after leading just 27-23 at the break.

Yet despite the setbacks, Clifford said there is a whole new dynamic with this team.

“I have kids who didn’t play who celebrated as much as the guys who were in when we played Gateway. There’s a different attitude. The kids love playing for each other and want to represent our school,” Clifford said. “The kids have bought into the idea this could be something.”