By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — North Port High School used a dominating first half on the way to a preseason victory over Port Charlotte Wednesday night.
The Bobcats led by 19 points at halftime, but we’re out scored by five points in the second half in a 49-35 win.
Nykevia Blakeney had a game-high 17 points in the win for the Bobcats, who also received 14 points from Emani Jefferson. Following the game, first-year coach Dale Huffman was pleased with the play from his two guards, but recognized there was area for improvement.
“I like our new point guard (Jefferson). She’s pretty quick, and played well,” Huffman said. “Blakeney shot pretty good, too.
“We’ve got stuff to clean up, still. We get into situations where we look like we’re a little out of control because we are.”
Forward Alexis Francavilla appeared in mid-season form, at least on the stat sheet. She led all players with 22 rebounds, while also adding 12 points, six steals and two blocks. Early in the game, Francavilla alone was out-scoring the Pirates 6-5, and helped them to a 10-point lead after the first quarter.
Huffman wants to see Francavilla get the ball a little more, though.
“We could play a pick up game in the middle of June and she’s already in mid-season form because she’s just so athletic,” Huffman said. “We’re not looking for her enough right now. When you’ve got a kid like that, you have to use them more.
Aryana Hough also made an impact on defense with five steals.
For Port Charlotte, Celia Baermann was the top performer with 14 points, 17 rebounds and three steals.
“I think she has the potential to do a lot,” Pirates coach Kevin Purcell said. “She needs to play like she’s a junior. It’s her third year on varsity, and she needs to play like it. She has to potential to do really great things.”
Baermann helped the Pirates to a 23-18 advantage in the second half, after trailing 31-12 at the break.
“I liked our energy when we came out in the third quarter,” Purcell said. “You dig yourself a hole like that when you only score 12 in a half. You never know how they’re going to come out. Most girls might bury their head, but I like how they came out.”
Rachael Livingston had a well-rounded game with eight points, seven rebounds and seven steals. Jenae Dennard also had eight points with three bounds.
This was the first of two preseason games for both teams. They’ll each head back to Charlotte on Thursday, as the Bobcats will play the Tarpons, and Port Charlotte faces Cypress Lake.
NORTH PORT 49, PORT CHARLOTTE 35
Port Charlotte 8 4 8 15 — 35
North Port 18 13 7 11 — 49
Pirates(35): Celia Baermann 14, Livingstone 8, Dennard 8, Henderson 2, Lambardo 2, White 1. Totals: 10(1) 14-30 35.
Bobcats (49): Nykevia Blakeney 17, Emani Jefferson 14, Alexis Francavilla 13, Hough 4, Hand 1. Totals: 17(2) 13-30 49.
CHARLOTTE 69, CYPRESS LAKE 34
Charlotte High School had no problem scoring against Cypress Lake on Wednesday, as they cruised to a preseason win.
The Tarpons doubled-up the Panthers midway through the third quarter, and kept it up for the remainder of the night in a 69-34 win.
Kelyn Moses was shooting lights out, sinking four 3-pointers on the way to a 21-point night. The guard also had four assists.
Moses and Kayla Lamb did a majority of the scoring for the Tarpons. Lamb had 16 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Lamb also did her job, forcing fouls and getting to the free throw line. She took eight trips to the line, and made half of her 16 shots.
“This is their fourth year up (on varsity), so there’s some leadership expected from them,” coach Mike Robishaw said. “Their experience helps a lot, especially with the younger players.”
The Tarpons led just 12-9 after the first quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Moses early in the second period helped Charlotte to a 33-18 advantage at the half.
Sophomore Alani Qualls got the start for the Tarpons, and made an impact with six points and four rebounds.
“She’s athletic and fast,” Robishaw said. “She got her first-game jitters out early, and she was ready to play.”
Another top performer for Charlotte was Taylor Kirkus, who had a game-high 13 rebounds to go with 10 points and four steals.
The Tarpons will face North Port for one final preseason game Thursday night at 7 p.m.
CHARLOTTE 69, CYPRESS LAKE 34
Cypress Lake 9 9 6 10 — 34
Charlotte 12 21 15 21 — 69
Panthers(34): Alyssa Vetter 10, Blanks 8, Ackerman 6, Schirnding 5, South 3, Casmir 1, Boyko 1. Totals: 11(2) 10-28 34.
Tarpons (69): Kelyn Moses 21, Kayla Lamb 16, Taylor Kirkus 10, Qualls 6, Bunch 4, M. Moses 4, Griffin 4, Burton 5, Comrie 2, Smith 1. Totals: 26(4) 13-30 69.