Mariner dominated in the fourth quarter Saturday night to win the third-place game of the Tritons' own Christmas Tournament, a 68-56 win over Estero.
The Tritons, trailing 45-43 entering the final period, outscored Estero 25-11 in the quarter. Strong free-throw shooting played a key role, especially in the final minutes.
"We've shot free throws well this year," Tritons coach James Harris said. "We give emphasis in practice to free-throw shooting and it's really starting to pay off."
Mariner was 7-of-9 at the line in the fourth quarter, and one of the two misses was put in for a rebound basket by Rodney Hunter.
"We made some plays in the fourth quarter that we haven't been making," Harris said.
Hunter scored 21 points to lead the Tritons (8-6), while Rick Moore scored 20 points and Collin Nash added 16. Hunter also had five rebounds and three steals for the Tritons.
The teams were playing their third game in as many days, and the Tritons were coming off a 77-72 loss to city rival Island Coast. It is the first time the Tritons have ever lost to the Gators.
"I'm really proud of their effort," Harris said. "We certainly didn't come here to win third place, but we still had pride to play for. They played probably their best quarter of the year."
The Tritons held a 26-24 lead at the half, but Estero played its best basketball in the third quarter. The Wildcats scored 21 in the period to take a two-point advantage entering the fourth.
Mariner scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, and never led by fewer than six down the stretch. Hunter and Nash did their job at the foul line in the final 2:26 to put Estero away.
R.J. Myers provided a spark for Estero (5-9) with 20 points, the only Wildcats player in double figures.
Hunter and Myers were named to the all-tournament team.
The Tritons are off until facing Lely on Jan. 5 in the Lee-Collier Bash.
"I think we can build on this and make a run in the second half of the year," Harris said.
Estero 12 11 21 11 - 56
Mariner 13 13 17 25 - 68
Estero 56 - Johnson 2, Driggers 9, Myers 20, Jean-Francois 6, Desire 6, Warner 6, Hall 3, Zeimetz 4.
3PG: Driggers 1, Myers 3, Hall 1.
Mariner 68 - Mitchell 5, Rick Moore 20, Collin Nash 16, Rodney Hunter 21, Sillie 6.
3PG: Mitchell 1, Moore 2, Nash 3, Hunter 1.