Tre Carroll and Ahmed Johnson carried the Charlotte offense for most of the first half and led the Tarpons (3-0, 3-0) to a 68-45 win over district foe Lemon Bay (2-1, 1-1) Tuesday night.
The Tarpons led 19-16 over the Manta Rays after a first quarter that saw Carroll and Johnson combine for 16 points, eight apiece.
Even with the slim lead, and little scoring help from the rest of the team, Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said he felt his team was taking good shots that he was happy with.
“If we take good shots consistently they’re going to fall eventually,” said Massolio. “It was just one of those nights it wasn’t falling for some of our guys.”
The district game between two of Charlotte County’s high schools started off with high intensity, lots of emotions and a raucous crowd from both the home and away sections.
Even while tangled up for jump balls and wrestling for loose balls on the court, players from both teams were able to keep their composure despite the hostile environment.
The referees drew the ire from both Massolio and Lemon Bay head coach Sean Huber, however. Just a minute and a half into the second quarter, with Charlotte clinging to a 21-18 lead, the Mantas were awarded possession of the ball after a shot bounced over the top of the backboard. Massolio, visibly upset, would receive a warning for arguing with a referee on the missed call.
Soon after, Charlotte went on a 19-6 run to close out the first half with a 40-24 lead over Lemon Bay. Most of the Tarpons production continued to come from Carroll, 15-points and Johnson, 19-points, in the first half.
Even though Massolio would later say his team needed to play better defense, part of the reason for the big run was the defensive play of Makai Reaves and Faustin Phanor.
Reaves finished the night with 8-points, but was active in the passing lanes, corralling six steals. Phanor, who didn’t take a shot in the game, did all his work in the paint, walking away with five blocks on the night.
“I think we got to get a lot better, defensively,” said Massolio. “With length and athleticism we can force some bad shots but we got to get a lot better there.”
For Lemon Bay, senior guard Gunyr Morrill scored 7-points followed by senior forward Martell Yale with 6-points in the first half, but a big reason for the Tarpons victory was by holding the duo to just 5-points total in the second half.
The biggest run the Mantas were able to get on was just a 7-3 run in the third quarter to cut the lead to 55-37, the closest it would be for the rest of the night.
The 24-points scored by Lemon Bay was right around the average for points scored against Charlotte in the first two games combined, after wins of 71-21 and 91-29.
Lemon Bay will next take on Venice on Dec 7 at home. While Charlotte will battle SWFLs top-rated Lehigh before a home game Dec. 10 against rival Port Charlotte.