PORT CHARLOTTE — Defense has been the calling card of the Port Charlotte boys basketball team all season and Friday night’s Class 5A-District 11 championship game was no exception as the Pirates rallied in the fourth quarter to capture the District title, 56-50, over the Mariner Tritons.
Add in some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by Logan Rogers and Port Charlotte had enough to outscore Mariner, 21-13, in the fourth quarter to clinch its second straight district crown.
“We played great defense, we executed on offense, and down the stretch we made foul shots,” Pirates coach Kip Rhoten said. “When you do stuff like that, you win ball games. Mariner has scored 90 points five times this year and they scored 74 on us last time, and tonight we held them to 50. That’s how you win ball games. I absolutely loved it.”
Port Charlotte (17-9) came out red hot in the first four minutes, sinking a variety of three-pointers and layups to take a 21-9 lead. Then the Pirates went cold, as the Tritons (20-5) went on a 14-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to take the lead. Port Charlotte went without a field goal for the entire second quarter and trailed, 30-26, at halftime.
The Pirates still trailed by two entering the final quarter, but a three-point basket from the corner by Rogers that spun around the rim multiple times before falling through put Port Charlotte ahead for the first time since the second quarter, 40-39. The Pirates extended the lead to 47-39 with five minutes left until Mariner gradually cut into the deficit, finally closing the gap to 52-50 with 30 seconds left when Desean Archilles was fouled driving to the hoop, giving the Tritons a chance to tie.
But Archilles, who led Mariner with 21 points, missed the front end of the one-and-one and Port Charlotte corralled the rebound. Rogers was fouled and sank two free throws to make it a four-point game, then sank two more with 9 seconds left after a Mariner turnover to account for the final margin.
Rogers made 7 of 8 foul shots in the final two minutes after missing two earlier in the period after a technical foul was called on Tritons coach Ryan Hercek.
“Really just a short term memory,” Rogers said. “I missed the two and everyone of my teammates and my coach came up to me and told me to forget it because I’d end up shooting more later in the game. So I just cleared it away and they had all the faith in me, so I just stepped up and did what I had to do.”
The Pirates were just 6 for 15 from the foul line before Rogers and Alex Perry made 9 of the last 10 as Port Charlotte overcame its offensive lull.
“They were ready to go and then we had the little lull there in the second quarter,” Rhoten said. “But that goes back to the defense. We just stayed with it.”
“It’s really just a game of runs,” Rogers said. “You come out shooting 70 or 80 percent and the next thing you know you’re shooting 20 percent and you can’t get a basket. So you’ve really just got to withstand the runs that they make. They had to withstand ours and at the end of the day, we had to pull it out. We knew it would be a dogfight.”
Rogers and Shawn Lefresne led the Pirates with 15 points apiece, Perry added 9 and Gerald Robinson had 8. Port Charlotte will host a Regional quarterfinal next Thursday night.