As the Port Charlotte basketball team left the visiting locker room at DeSoto County High School last week, there wasn’t a happy face among them. You would have thought they had lost their season opener rather than getting a 52-49 win.

After a much longer post-game meeting than usual, Port Charlotte coach Kip Rhoten talked about the game. “We got outplayed. I think they were a little more locked in than we were and they outplayed us except for a five-minute period in the third period where we got a little cushion. They really outplayed us. It’s a shame that they had to lose ... but sometimes you play bad and win, and we’re lucky to get out of here with the win.”

Tyler Perry led the Pirates with 16 points. “It was from us seniors thinking we were better than what we are,” he said. “We needed the wake up. We underestimated this team and we didn’t deserve to win that game tonight. You can write it just like that too.”

After Perry’s three-pointer opened the scoring, Arnold Mele came back with a trey to tie the game. Mele would, in fact, hit three treys in the first period to help the Bulldogs take a 12-6 lead after the first eight minutes.

Keimar Richardson knocked down 10 points in the game ... and they all seemed to come at the right time. After the Pirates had a 13-6 run in the second period to take a 19-18 lead, it was Richardson who put the Bulldogs back on top, 20-19. After another Port Charlotte score, Richardson came right back with another bucket to regain the lead at 22-21. The Pirates took a two-point lead into the break, as they scored four points in the final few seconds of the half.

The third period saw the Pirates outscore the Bulldogs 18-10, as everything that went right in the first half didn’t do so in the second half. Turnovers and missed opportunities for the Bulldogs gave the Pirates a 10-point lead going into the final period.

DeSoto outscored the Pirates 15-8 in the final frame, but came up just three points short, as the Pirates escaped Arcadia with a close and well-fought 52-49 win. Richardson fouled out of the game with 3:38 remaining in the fourth period and the Bulldogs trailing by four points.

The Pirates were just one shot from winning their fifth straight district title last year in a strong district where the champs got to the final four in the state tournament. They lost only one senior from last year, and he was not one of their big guns. So they came into DeSoto County with basically the same team that they had last year and had such a good season. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, won only four games last season.

Both teams this time are very athletic and the game was expected to be like an indoor track meet, with players running like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday. It was a high-energy game fueled by the large crowd in the stands. It was also a very physical game.

Rhoten added: “That’s a good team, that’s a physical team. They’re not little boys. They’ve got some players, some real athletes.”

Nate Maybell showed his athletic skills around the net with two monster dunks that got the crowd really into the game. It was a good performance by the Bulldogs that hopefully will carry on through the rest of the season.

Mele took scoring honors with a career high 24 points that included five three-pointers. Mele said, “We are a different team this year—you need to bring your game with you against us.”

The Pirates found that out.

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