PUNTA GORDA — Ahmad Johnson scored 29 points, including 10 in a row at the start of the third quarter, as Charlotte pulled away in the second half to defeat Lemon Bay, 58-45.
The Tarpons led by six at halftime in the Class 7A-District 10 boys basketball semifinal Wednesday before Johnson went on his personal 10-point run to expand the lead to 14, and the Manta Rays never got within single digits again as Charlotte moved on to Friday’s District final at Port Charlotte.
“He’s a senior. He’s got to lead us,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “I said that early on our seniors got to lead us. Obviously we’ve got to have some other guys chip in but he did a great job tonight.”
“I went out there and did it myself,” Johnson said. “The majority of the shots that I took were ones that just came to me whenever I was open. I felt comfortable so I just shot the ball and I just tried to take good shots, that’s all.”
“If you look back at the last three times we’ve played them here, going back to last year’s playoffs, we knew he (Johnson) was going to have one of those runs,” Lemon Bay coach Sean Huber added.
“I just implored our guys to not panic and really concentrate on getting a stop because it’s one thing to know what they’re going to do, but it’s another thing to stop it.
“The shots were contested too. He’s really good.”
The Mantas upset the Tarpons in last year’s semifinals, but Johnson helped make sure there would be no repeat performance this time.
“Before the game our coach reminded us of that,” Johnson said.
“We just accepted that and used it as motivation and went out there and played our hardest.”
The first quarter was back and forth with the Tarpons grabbing a 19-16 lead at the end of the stanza, then expanded the margin to 30-24 at the half.
“I knew Lemon Bay was going to try something a little different,” Massolio said.
“Changing defenses was one of the things we talked about. They did a phenomenal job. I tip my hat to what they did in the first half.
“Luckily, we had the lead at the half and then I thought we played an outstanding third quarter.
“We extended our zone a little bit and they hurt us on the back side, so we made some adjustments at the end of the first quarter and it really helped out a lot and kept them out of the paint all night long.”
With the zone neutralizing the inside game, the Mantas were unable to hit many shots from the outside.
“I thought we did everything we could possibly do and then they went on that run,” Huber said.
“It’s hard for us because game-plan wise we’re trying to keep the game short.
“We took some quick shots trying to answer back and didn’t make them and they did, and it’s over.”
“There’s not one guy that I’m going to go home tonight and go ‘God I wish he’d played harder,’” Huber added.
“We couldn’t go any harder. I’m proud and we’ll reflect upon what happened and build for next year.”
Tre Carroll joined Johnson in double figures for the Tarpons, now 20-7, with 12 points.
Leon Fleming led the Mantas, who finished the season at 15-12, with 14 points while Martell Yale added 10.
CHARLOTTE 58, LEMON BAY 45
Lemon Bay 16. 8. 6. 15. — 45
Charlotte. 19. 11. 16. 12. — 58
LEMON BAY: Fleming 14, Yale 10, Shamasian 9, Geisendorfer 6, Martinez 4, Morrill 2. Totals: 16(4), 9-12, 45
CHARLOTTE: Johnson 29, Carroll 12, Reaves 8, Scribner 5, Gainer 4. Totals: 20(4), 14-22, 58.