PUNTA GORDA — The Charlotte and Lemon Bay girls basketball teams battled on even terms for the first five minutes of their Class 7A-District 10 matchup Friday night.
It took until 3:05 was remaining in the first quarter for the Tarpons to take their first lead of the night, 7-5, on a basket by Aryana Hicks. A free throw by Abby Turner cut the margin to 7-6 moments later. But to say things turned in the Tarpons favor at that point would be an understatement, as Charlotte scored the last 30 points of the first half en route to a 45-13 victory over the Manta Rays.
The Tarpons were without leading scorer Mati Moses, who suffered a ankle injury in practice. But just as they did in the teams first meeting in December, the Tarpons forced numerous Lemon Bay turnovers with their full court pressure defense.
“We’re always working on our defense,” Charlotte coach Matt Stephenson said. “Our rotations were a little bit better tonight ad we actually set up the press and did what we were supposed to do. Everything worked. We forced a lot of turnovers which we were able to convert into some points and that kind of got us into a rhythm offensively where we were good in the half court set also.”
The Tarpons won the earlier matchup, 76-31, but Lemon Bay coach Mike Young thought he had his team ready for the rematch.
“We know what side of the floor we have to work on,” Young said. “We got off to a great start. We had some shots that we should have made that didn’t go in for us, and you’ve got to make some shots to stay in the game. It just snowballed in the second quarter. I told the girls that no matter what we did, they made shots and we didn’t make shots. They had one of those nights.
They had girls make shots who probably don’t normally make shots for them. They have a deep bench that can come in and do that so credit to them for their subs stepping up.”
The Tarpons had a 37-6 halftime lead, then made the opening bucket of the second half to extend the run to 32-0 before Kellie Redmann ended the streak with a layup with 6:17 to play in the third quarter. A basket by Dylan Anthony midway through the period gave Charlotte a 43-8 advantage and started a running clock for the rest of the game.
“We had to make an adjustment with Moses being out,” Stephenson said. “She means a lot to the team. But we stepped up, turned it on, and figured out different ways to make things happen. Lauren (Jackson) stepped up, Ary (Hicks) stepped up, Dylan (Anthony) stepped up. We had everybody step up and contribute to where she was missing tonight. It was a slow start but it ended up being a good ending so I’m happy about that.’
Hicks led the Tarpons with 10 points, while Bella Desjardins and Vanessa Vicente added 8 apiece. Charlotte (12-4 overall, 7-0 district) has key district matchups with Cape Coral and Port Charlotte next week, and hopes to have Moses back in the lineup by then.
Lemon Bay (8-6, 5-4) has a non-district game with North Port on Wednesday.
“For three quarters, we did a pretty good job of doing some things,” Young said. “The score doesn’t reflect it. It was a long second quarter. It was a big run they had from the middle of the first until the third quarter. You don’t expect those things to happen. But our kids didn’t quit playing. It’s just when they shoot 50 percent from the field and you shoot 20 percent, that’s what’s going to happen. We’ve just got to get our percentage up and we’ll be in the game.”
CHARLOTTE 45, LEMON BAY 13
Lemon Bay 6 0 2 5 — 13
Charlotte 14 23 8 0 — 45
LEMON BAY: Ziarnicki 5, Chandler 3, Redmann 2, Gibb 2, Turner 1. Totals: 5(2), 1-8, 13
CHARLOTTE: Hicks 10, Desjardins 8, Vicente 8, Jackson 6, Anthony 6, Joseph 5, Pascal 2. Totals: 20(5), 0-4, 45