When Venice girls basketball coach Jeremy Martin took over the program this summer, he was met with a bigger challenge than he had envisioned.

After coaching the junior varsity boys team for Venice, Martin jumped at the chance to be a head coach, but it’s resulted in a lot of sleepless nights a couple of weeks into the season.

Though Venice (0-5) couldn’t come up with its first win on Tuesday night against Port Charlotte in a 47-41 loss at the TeePee, the Lady Indians showed significant strides.

Entering Tuesday night losing four straight games by 20 points or more, Venice stormed out of halftime to grab a lead and nearly held on — trailing by two with two minutes to play.

“Since I’ve been here in July there’s been a huge improvement,” Martin said. “They just don’t have a few of the details needed to win basketball games yet. You lose by six, I gotta say we probably missed 10 layups in the first half. We’re getting them in the right spots, now we have to get them to learn how to make those.

“They just don’t know how to win. They panic when they don’t have the ball because they haven’t been in this spot yet. But they’ve really grown up in the past few weeks.”

It looked as though Venice would be in for another long night as Port Charlotte opened with an 8-2 lead, but the Indians came up with some steals and big rebounds to close the gap to 11-9 heading into the second quarter.

Trailing 23-18 at halftime, the Indians opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the game since Kylie Poole kicked off the game with two free throws.

Brooklyn DuBay-Smith took over during that third quarter run as she had two of her four steals and came up with three of her eight rebounds to keep the ball in the Indians’ hands.

“Basketball is a game of runs and they came out in the third quarter and made a big run,” Port Charlotte Mike Progl said. “We kind of withstood that blow and the fourth quarter came around and we were fine.

“Venice is a big team, they’re very tall. They jump high and get the ball. But I brought up some freshmen and Bryanna Griffiths has made a big difference, grabbing a lot of rebounds.”

Both teams were neck-and-neck in the fourth quarter as Poole and DuBay-Smith combined for seven points and Pirates freshman Bryanna Griffiths scored six of her 10.

Though Venice only trailed by two with two minutes to go, the quick hands of Sharina Hudson were too much for the Indians to overcome. The senior guard had three steals down the stretch and finished with a game-high eight takeaways.

Despite the close loss, Martin was encouraged with his team’s effort as they continue to fight for their first win under the first-year head coach.

“We’re almost through our tough schedule. But I think they’ve really grown up in the last few weeks. It’s just the details, and we’ll get there.

“It’s a challenge to keep them motivated because they’re working hard but not getting the results yet. That’s what we’re really working on, just getting them confidence. I think it’s shaken, but as long as they keep working, that will come.”

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