With just one game left in the regular season, the Port Charlotte boys basketball team was able to come away with a 38-26 win against area rival North Port to keep their perfect season alive.
The Pirates moved to 23-0 with just a home game left against Desoto County High Thursday for Senior Night standing in between them and a dream season.
It wasn’t pretty, and a team with less experience may have let a poor shooting night affect their play, but Port Charlotte hunkered down on defense and were able to keep the Bobcats at bay on Tuesday.
Bradon Gainey was the whole of the Pirates offense for the first eight plus minutes, as he scored the first 12 points for Port Charlotte, who took an 11-8 lead after the first quarter.
“It feels good to get the win,” said Gainey. “They’re a good team and we had come out and played hard. We went through some adversity during the third quarter cause it was a close game that we had to play through. It was a good game, they played real hard.”
Even trailing 11-8 at the first buzzer, North Port had to be confident with their play early on, hitting two 3-point shots and leading the turnover battle 5-3. Nick Passamonte hit both three pointers, and the defense of Mitch Tosi and Eric Baker helped the Bobcats stay within three points.
Defense was the story of the night, and has been for the Pirates all season long. Port Charlotte was held to just 40 percent shooting from the field on the night, but held North Port to an abysmal 27 percent.
“We didn’t change anything that we haven’t done since November, and that’s how we won the game,” said Port Charlotte coach Kip Rhoten about his teams defensive performance.
Passamonte was the only Bobcat player to connect on a three point attempt. The Bobcats are often a good shooting team from deep, but were just 2-15 against the Pirates suffocating man-to-man defense.
“We got some steals, we got some fast-paced points,” said Rhoten. “I thought when Alex (Romero) came back into the game, he gave us a jolt and helped us get a lead of about eight or nine points, and that’s the way it was the rest of the game.”
Port Charlotte wasn’t the only ones that thrived on defense, however, as the Bobcats held the Pirates to their lowest point total this season. As a whole, this very well could’ve been North Port’s best defensive performance all season, taking into account the opponent and road matchup.
The Bobcats held a struggling Mariner team to 33 points on Jan. 19. That is the only game this season that a team has scored less than the Pirates did Tuesday against North Port.
It was ultimately on the offensive end that the Bobcats got into trouble on Tuesday, however. The 26 points the Pirates held North Port to was also the second lowest scoring game of the season for a Port Charlotte opponent.
“I thought we had a lot of chances in the first half around the basket,” said North Port Coach Ryan Power. “We had a couple of layups that we missed that could’ve gotten us closer at halftime.
Blocks, steals, and free throws made were all in advantage of the Pirates for the game. The Pirates led five blocks to one, seven steals to four and seven free throws made to four.
“I thought we did a great job of getting the ball in the paint,” said Power about only attempting six free throws on the night. “We have to do a better job of creating contact. A couple times we could’ve created contacted and just shied away from it.”
After a slow start, Pirates point guard Alex Romero came to life around the middle of the second quarter and tied Gainey with 12 points on the night, the most of any player on either team. Romero added five steals and five assists while leading the game with a 14 +/- rating.
A three pointer from Romero with 3:40 left in the game gave the Pirates a 7-0 run that acted as the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Bobcats. Two minutes later, one of the Pirates top players, Tyler Perry made his first basket of the night for his only two points on what was an off night for the gifted senior.
“If one of our guys starts to get hot, that’s going to open up shots for other players when defenses start to focus on that one guy and that’s what happened tonight with our team.”
Perry’s struggles on the Port Charlotte bench was matched by the struggles of one of the Bobcats top players as well, Eric Baker. Baker, usually a sharpshooter from downtown was 0-3 from three point range and just 2-9 shooting on the night.
Baker was able to add five defensive rebounds to lead the team, as well as an offensive rebound, but was charged with his fifth foul late in the contest to foul out in the highly whistled game that had both benches barking at the refs all night.
The Bobcats were tabbed with 12 fouls on the night, and the Pirates had 10 of their own. With just over a minute left in the game the North Port bench was hit with a warning for being out of the coaches box.
North Port has two home games to finish their regular season. Thursday they will take on Manatee and Friday they host Gateway Charter from Fort Myers.
Port Charlotte has just the game against Desoto on Senior Night Thursday before they get into district tournament play.
Port Charlotte 11 11 4 12 38
North Port 8 7 5 6 26
Port Charlotte: Gainey 12, Romero 12, Fleurissant 8
North Port: Passamonte 8, Tosi 5, Baker/Morales 4