PORT CHARLOTTE – Port Charlotte’s defense didn’t mess around Monday night, playing with a playoff-like intensity in a 41-24 district quarterfinal win over Island Coast.

The Pirates (15-10) pitched a shutout for the first 10 minutes of their 7A-R3 District 10 quarterfinal victory, relegating the Gators (11-15) to a Super Bowl-like lethargy. Port Charlotte opened up a 17-0 lead before Island Coast scored their first point at the 5:19 mark of the second quarter.

“I thought our first half was fabulous,” head coach Michael Progl said. “They did exactly what they were asked to do. They executed the press the way we wanted. They moved the ball, they got steals. Our best offense was our defense.”

The Pirates forced 22 turnovers, denying Island Coast passes and suffocating the Gators’ shooters whenever they could.

Junior guard Sharina Hudson served as the catalyst for Port Charlotte, scoring points 15 while collecting three steals, two rebounds and an assist.

“She does a lot,” Progl said of Hudson. “She gets so many steals and she’s lighting fast so as soon as she gets the ball, it’s a layup. She is the engine that gets us running. Once she gets picking the ball off, it leads to our other four players picking up their defense and everything starts clicking on all cylinders.”

After finishing with a 3-19 record last year, the Pirates have made remarkable improvements under first year head coach Michael Progl.

“They have to believe in the person next to them,” said Progl. “Nobody can do everything themselves. They needed to understand that everybody has a role and an impact on the outcome of every single game. Now that they all understand that they need each other, it has allowed us to start flourishing and moving in the right direction. Now it’s just a matter of perfecting what we need to perfect. But the heart and the belief in each other is established.”

Port Charlotte will be tested in a high-stakes contest with second-seeded Cape Coral (18-7) in the district semifinals on Wednesday. The Pirates lost both of their matchups with the Seahawks this season, dropping each game by 19 points or more.

“Cape Coral is very disciplined,” Progl said. “They have a lot of seniors that have been on varsity for quite some time. They’ve won the district the last three years in a row. They’re battle-tested and we’re a fairly young group. It comes down to patience and execution. Tomorrow we have to work on some fundamental things to make sure that we at least have a chance Wednesday.”

A win over Cape Coral would guarantee Port Charlotte at least two more postseason games, qualifying them for the district finals and regionals. A loss would bring their turnaround season to a conclusion.

PORT CHARLOTTE 41,

ISLAND COAST 24

Island Coast 0 7 4 13 – 24

Port Charlotte 14 16 7 4 – 41

Island Coast: Amerie Arnold 12, Peta-Gaye Smith 5, Khiarra Polit 4, Angel Townsend 3. Totals: 7 (1) 9-21 24.

Port Charlotte: Sharina Hudson 15, Sade Romain 6, Ashlyn Henderson 5, Sandy Andre 4, Lizz Joseph 3, Emily Larson 3, Alysa Taylor 2, Alisha Huggins 2, Ameijha Jones 1. Totals: 15 (3) 8-20 41.

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