By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Headed into Thursday’s preseason game for Port Charlotte High School, coach Kevin Purcell wanted his team to have a faster start than they did the night before.
The Pirates did just that, on the way to a 52-31 win over Cypress Lake in the final tune up game before the regular season. Despite being out-scored 13-12 in the first quarter, they went into halftime with 26 points, where the night before, Port Charlotte had just 12 points after two quarters.
“We looked a little calmer,” Purcell said. “Once we got calm, and ran what we should run, our offense looked good. We had a lead and we took care of it, and that’s really good to see.”
Jenae Dennard had a nine-point outburst in the second quarter to finish the night with 17 points. That was tied for a team-best with Celia Baermann, who hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter to help get to her total.
“I think sometimes she gets a little too comfortable with that three,” Purcell said. “But she got us going right away. We like her to hit that three right away, it gets our energy going.”
Dennard went 7-for-9 from the free throw line, and added four rebounds and four steals. Baermann totaled nine rebounds and three steals on the night.
Rachael Livingston came off the bench and played in just the middle two quarters, but made the most of her minutes with six points and six rebounds before getting into foul trouble.
The score was 14-14 at one point in the second quarter, which eventually became a 35-22 lead in the third quarter for Port Charlotte. The Pirates ended the night on a 38-17 run from when it was tied in the second quarter.
“(That means) we’re in shape,” Purcell said. “And then we continued it in the third quarter, which means our legs are getting underneath us.”
Port Charlotte begins the regular season Tuesday at home against Cape Coral at 7 p.m.
PORT CHARLOTTE 52, CYPRESS LAKE 31
Cypress Lake 13 7 2 9 — 31
Port Charlotte 12 14 13 13 — 52
Panthers (31): Alyssa Vetter 12, Blanks 6, Ackerman 5, South 4, Casmir 2. Totals: 12(1) 6-18 31.
Pirates(52): Celia Baermann 17, Jenae Dennard 17, Livingston 6, Henderson 5, Team, 2, Lombardo 2, Depiare 2, Guerrier, 1. Totals: 17(4) 14-22 52.
CHARLOTTE 59, NORTH PORT 57
Charlotte High School squandered a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead, but North Port ran out of time before being able to pull off the comeback in a 59-57 game.
The Tarpons were up 49-40 headed into the final period, but an 11-2 run just four minutes into the fourth quarter for the Bobcats brought the score to a tie at 51. Charlotte’s Kayla Lamb and Kelyn Moses were able to stop the bleeding, as they each had big baskets in the final few minutes to preserve a victory.
“We didn’t play very well (at the end),” Charlotte coach Mike Robishaw said. “We weren’t playing defense, we weren’t rebounding, and teams are going to come back and beat us if we don’t play well.”
Lamb and Moses each had 18 points in the win. Lamb also had four rebounds and four assists. Moses had four assists, and a key steal and score in the final minutes.
North Port was able to go on its big fourth-quarter run with the help of Emani Jefferson on offense. The freshman drove to the hoop for six crucial points to end the night with 15 points. Kamryn Nazario came off the bench to score five points in the fourth, and 14 on the night including a pair of 3-pointers.
“I want her to do that,” North Port coach Dale Huffman said of Jefferson being aggressive.
“But she’s a freshman, and she’s afraid to offend people. She wants to make that extra pass, and get somebody else involved, which is fine because we want to get people involved, but sometimes she has to let that speed come out. And she did that in the fourth quarter.”
Charlotte’s forwards also made an impact to build up its lead in the first three quarters. Matisyn Moses had eight points off the bench, and Taylor Kirkus and Michelle Bunch each had six points. Kirkus also had 10 rebounds and Bunch grabbed nine.
For North Port, Alexis Francavilla had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. Aryana Hough out-hustled everybody for her stat line with six points, six rebounds, and four steals.
CHARLOTTE 59, NORTH PORT 57
North Port 10 13 17 17 — 59
Charlotte 10 19 20 10 — 57
Bobcats (57): Emani Jefferson 15, Alexis Francavilla 15, Camryn Nazario 14, Blakeney 7, Hough 6, Gonzalez 1. Totals: 24(3) 6-14 57.
Tarpons(59): Kelyn Moses 18, Kayla Lamb 18, M. Moses 8, Kirkus 6, Bunch 6, Qualls 3. Totals: 25(2) 7-12 59.
Five players to watch from the Lady Tarpon preseason classic (in no order):
Kayla Lamb, Charlotte Guard
She fights to the hoop and isn’t afraid to take a foul. She went to the line eight different times in the first game, and totaled 34 points in the two preseason games. Lamb’s tough, left-handed layup gave the Tarpons a 53-51 lead late in Game 2 Thursday.
Celia Baermann, Port Charlotte Forward
The junior can fight down low, grab an offensive rebound and put it back for second-chance points, or she can hit a 3-pointer in transition. She combined for 32 points and 27 rebounds in the two games, and will be a big factor for the Pirates this year.
Alexis Francavilla, North Port Center
Francavilla is the tallest on the court against nearly any team the Bobcats will play this year. She uses her size to her advantage, grabbing 33 rebounds, with 27 points, 10 steals and three blocks in the two preseason games.
Kelyn Moses, Charlotte Guard
Moses can shoot from anywhere on the court. She’s probably the best 3-point shooter in the area, and will also pull up for a mid-range shot. She dished out eight assists in the two games, while also scoring more than anyone else with 39 points.
Emani Jefferson, North Port Guard
She did not look like a freshman in the fourth quarter of Game 2 against Charlotte, scoring six points in the fourth quarter to lead her on an attempted comeback. Jefferson scored 29 points in the two preseason games, adding 10 steals and 10 rebounds.