PORT CHARLOTTE — What was supposed to be a tremendous rivalry matchup was turned upside down due to some unfortunate events on Friday night.
The Port Charlotte High School boys basketball team had three of its players sidelined because of injuries, leaving the Pirates with seven players to take on a fully healthy and athletic Charlotte team.
It was no contest as Charlotte trounced their rivals, 61-23, at the Anthony P. Cicchella Gymnasium on Friday in a non-district matchup.
Of the seven who dressed for the Pirates, six had never played this rivalry game on the varsity level, making this less of a game and more of a learning experience.
Charlotte (3-0) took full advantage against a hard-working, but outmatched foe. Tre Carroll had 21 points while freshman John Gamble overcame early foul trouble and added 13.
Charlotte coach Tom Massolio has taken his medicine a few times in this series and had a lot of respect and understanding for what Port Charlotte did under difficult circumstances.
“I told (coach) Kip Rhoten that it’s good to win games, but what you’re doing is building men,” Massolio said. “We had to do that Tuesday. We had to sit a few kids.
“Sometimes we forget about the men we’re building and that says a lot for them.”
The day started badly for Port Charlotte when starters Walter Johnson and Colby Schmutz and Christian Stone were not cleared to play after injuries suffered in practice and in gym class, leaving two sophomores and five juniors for the Pirates and forcing reserves such as Logan Clauser and Alex Perry into the starting lineup.
Things got ugly quickly, as Port Charlotte (2-1) could not hit a field goal until early in the second quarter and only scored three on the night.
Meanwhile, the Tarpons built up their lead. Gamble hit a pair of threes early to get them going, while Carroll methodically picked apart the Pirates inside and out.
“We had a lot of energy as a team and we went and got the ‘W’ together. I know we started off slow, so I tried to get us going really quick,” Gamble said. “For me it’s about staying humble and working hard.”
Charlotte led 16-4 after one quarter and 38-12 at the half. The Tarpons built the lead to 35 late in the third quarter to force a running clock for the remainder of the game.
Tyrik Gainer also reached double figures with 11. Gerald Robinson led the Pirates with seven points, all of them from the foul line.
Navari Johnson and Logan Rogers each had five.
Rhoten was proud of the effort his Pirates gave in an almost impossible situation. A far cry from what he thought was the case 24 hours earlier.
“It’s a long season and it made no sense to aggravate an injury in a game that doesn’t affect our district or region. Our guys played hard and laid it on the line in a tough situation against a really good team,” Rhoten said. “What Coach Massolio said was the best thing I heard all day. Sometimes it is about building men.”