The North Port girls basketball team played host to a red hot, but unrested Charlotte squad in what looked to be a good matchup for both teams on paper. However, the Bobcats pressured the Tarpons all night and ran away with the 51-34 win.
North Port made the first shot of the game, a three-pointer, and didn’t trail the rest of the way. With just under three minutes left in the first quarter Charlotte called a timeout trailing 10-5, that was the closest the score would be for the remainder of the game.
Charlotte didn’t immediately crack under the Bobcats pressure, but slowly faded over the first half, until an 11 point North Port run that was the breaking point. The run put the Bobcats ahead 32-15 going into halftime.
Coming into the game, the Bobcats had lost three of their last four, including close loses to two of the areas toughest teams in Lehigh and Dunbar. Coach Dale Huffman had his team well-prepared for Tuesday, having his team play with a faster pace on offense and more pressure on defense.
“The plan was to put pressure on them,” said Huffman. “Especially the young point guard, to force her to her left. We knew they like to run that pick and roll, we were prepared a little for it.”
Emani Jefferson was the star of the night, pacing both teams in multiple categories. Jefferson shot 7-15 from the field along with 8-11 from the free throw line to total 22 points on the night. Maybe more impressive was her five offensive rebounds that she combined with 12 defensive. Her 17 total rebounds almost bested Charlotte’s total of 21. Along with her scoring and rebound, Jefferson added five steals, five blocks and four assists on the night.
“The run and gun game fits Jefferson perfect,” said Huffman. “We kind of gotten away from it in the beginning of the year, so we’ve been on the girls about getting up and down the floor.”
After a low scoring third quarter in which the Tarpons scored just five points and North Port scored seven, Charlotte went on an 11-2 run to start the fourth and closed the gap to 41-31.
Charlotte was able to get the foul line more in the second half, drawing 15 fouls and making eight free throws. Dylan Anthony was instrumental in the Tarpons attempted comeback, grabbing five rebounds in the second half, tying Lauren Jackson and Matisyn Moses for the team lead.
North Port found another level to stall the Tarpons comeback attempt, however, and would go on a 10-3 run to finish out the game.
Freshman point guard Yani Hall added six points for the Bobcats and senior star Katelynn Hall ended the night with 14 points and five rebounds.
This is the first of four games for the week for North Port, who will also face off against area rivals Venice, Sarasota and a makeup game at Port Charlotte.
Charlotte had won seven of their last eight games, including Monday’s district win over Cape Coral, but their fourth game in five nights proved too much to handle.