It was a night to remember for the Port Charlotte faithful this past Tuesday when the man whose name graces the home court’s hardwood received special recognition from the Pirates.
Bill Specht, stoic as always, strode to midcourt prior to Port Charlotte’s tipoff against North Port, receiving thunderous applause from a crowd that included Charlotte High coach and Specht contemporary, Tom Massolio.
Once there and surrounded by family, Specht accepted a plaque and flowers before being enveloped in a bear hug from current Pirates coach at protégé, Kip Rhoten.
“I came here in 1993-94 when Bill took over and we were together for 20-some-odd years,” Rhoten said. “He put his heart and soul into this program. This program is the way it is today because of him.”
Specht was a standout athlete at Port Charlotte. Upon his graduation in 1986 he went to Florida State. After college, he came back to the high school and has never left.
In 23 years as the Pirates’ coach, he won 419 games, most in school history. His teams won eight district championships and made 17 appearances in the state playoffs.
During the summer, Port Charlotte’s gymnasium was refurbished. The new floor is now known as Bill Specht Court and features Specht’s signature on both sides.
“It was a little emotional,” Rhoten said. “It was a good moment. He deserves it.”
With Specht looking on from his usual spot at the end of the bleachers behind the home team’s bench, Port Charlotte defeated North Port in their season-opener, 54-43.
On to this week’s rankings:
1. Charlotte (1-2)
The offensively challenged Tarpons are showing signs of snapping out of their early season funk, but have been unable to sustain any success due to breakdowns and turnovers. That was on display Saturday when Charlotte snatched defeat from victory in a 65-62 overtime loss against Kathleen at the Southwest Florida vs. Everybody Classic. Because the Tarpons have been playing a schedule featuring opponents well outside the area, it has been hard to gauge just how good they are. This week will solve that riddle when Charlotte travels to Port Charlotte on Tuesday.
2. Port Charlotte (2-1)
Alex Perry was a dominant force in Port Charlotte’s two wins this week, totaling 53 points and 15 rebounds against North Port and DeSoto County. He missed a significant chuck of the Pirates’ 75-57 win in Arcadia after getting an elbow to the eye. No matter – the freshman duo of Khyre’ Ellis and Jahyere Chin picked up the slack, along with senior guard Onix Diaz and junior post, Caleb Campos. The Pirates’ loss came Saturday at the Southwest Florida vs. Everybody Classic against undefeated Bradenton Christian.
3. North Port (2-1)
The Bobcats took lessons learned from their Tuesday loss at Port Charlotte and applied them against Braden River in their home opener Friday night. Playing their typical brand of defense, North Port rolled to a 50-36 win behind Bradley Miller’s 16 points and 5 rebounds. Joey Rivera had 11 points while Dylan Almeyda chipped in 10. The Bobcats have a tough stretch coming up, beginning with Tuesday’s home affair against Riverview.
4. Venice (0-2)
Playing without three huge pieces of the puzzle, Venice opened its season with a pair of perplexing defeats. Wednesday, the Indians faced a Gulf Coast team that went 3-20 a year ago and lost, 79-56. The following evening resulted in a 67-53 loss against an improving, but still average Bayshore. With the football season keeping Myles Weston, Jayshon Platt and Austin Bray busy for another two weeks, Venice will try to get right during a three-day gauntlet against Port Charlotte, Booker and Lehigh beginning Thursday. That’s a tough ask.
5. Lemon bay (1-3)
It was an 0-2 week for the Mantas, but there isn’t much to be worried about at the moment. Though their guns went silent at Bishop Verot during a 50-33 loss, that game looks more like an outlier than an indicator. Later in the week, their 77-51 loss was expected against an undefeated Cardinal Mooney. This week features a home date with DeSoto County, a team they defeated 57-37 in the preseason, followed by a tough trip to a solid Parrish Community.
6. DeSoto County (0-4)
The Bulldogs’ winless start is a result of their schedule, which has been a bear. DeSoto County opened the year with North Port and Lehigh before facing Port Charlotte and Parrish Community this past week. Their opponents’ combine record so far: 10-3. Nazir Gilchrist had the performance of the week against Port Charlotte, dropping 31 points on the Pirates with a quick-draw, dead-eye 3-point shot.
7. Imagine (1-2)
All in all, the Sharks had a decent week. On Wednesday, they knocked off Sarasota Military in a 53-52 thriller. Friday featured a not-unexpected 50-31 beating against Parrish Community. Imagine will have most of the week to get ready for its showdown against Community Christian on Friday.
8. Community Christian (0-2)
The Mustangs are struggling to find points, which isn’t surprising considering their depleted roster. The learning process for Community Christian’s young squad continues this week with three games – a home date with Evangelical Christian on Tuesday before hitting the road to face Gateway on Thursday and Imagine on Friday.