BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Port Charlotte chased by Charlotte, North Port, Lemon Bay for area’s best

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

Sean Price and Port Charlotte High School return as the area’s best from a year ago. Price led the Pirates with 20.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game to be named The Sun’s all-area player of the year for 2015-16.

He also led Port Charlotte to a third straight district championship and a regional semifinals appearance. The Pirates earned that district title in a come-from-behind victory against rival Charlotte, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit.

Price is in a leadership role beyond just in scoring now as a senior. He will lead a young, but talented team as the Pirates defend their district title.

The Tarpons will look to capture that district championship this year with a group of experienced players who are in their third year at the varsity level. Will Batts could be a big threat for Charlotte, but it will be a balanced attack toward victories most of the season.

Also in that district is Lemon Bay, which could have the tallest roster it’s had in a long time. The Manta Rays have four players at least 6-foot-5, with Tyler Caron providing the biggest punch of that group.

North Port has a new coach, but mostly the same players. Zach Babut and Bryan O’Boyle were named to the all-area team last season, and return with another year of experience. The path to the postseason for the Bobcats helps in a three-team district.

LEMON BAY

COACH: Sean Huber (6th year)

LAST SEASON: 6-18, lost to Charlotte in District 6A-10 semifinals

DISTRICT: 7A-10 Teams: Cape Coral, Charlotte, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lemon Bay, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Ronnie Blem, Jaryd Clary, Sean Kluner
KEY RETURNERS: Cade Huber (Jr., G) Keegan Wyman (Jr., G/F) Luke Morrill (Jr., G) Mike Reid (Jr., G) Tyler Caron (Jr., C/F)

KEY NEWCOMERS: Leon Fleming (So., C/F), Hayden Wolff (So., F), Martel Yale (So., G)
OUTLOOK: The Manta Rays are basically a 5A school playing in 7A. They go into every game as an underdog, but it’s no worry. Lemon Bay returns a strong core of juniors led by Huber and  Wyman. Look for Caron to be a go-to threat in the paint and for Wolff to provide some athleticism off the bench.

PORT CHARLOTTE

COACH: Bill Specht (22nd year)

LAST SEASON: 24-3 (District Champions), lost to Largo in Region 6A-3 semifinals
DISTRICT: 7A-10 Teams: Cape Coral, Charlotte, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lemon Bay, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Matt Washington, Zac Specht, Andrew Griffiths, Justin Medina, Isaac Almanzar

KEY RETURNERS: Sean Price (Sr., G/F), Klayton Morris (Sr., PG), Elijah Johnson (Sr., F), Eligio Perez-Dunn (Sr., F), Bryce Cleveland (Jr., G),
KEY NEWCOMERS: Shawn Campbell (Jr., G), Shemar Fleurissant (So., G), Brandon Gainey (So., F), Tyler Perry (So., G)

OUTLOOK: The Pirates surrounding cast might be a little younger than in previous seasons, but the main star is Price, who is poised to have a great final year. Port Charlotte would love to get farther than the regional semifinals this year. Price, along with Morris as a key contributor, the athletic Campbell joining the team as well as a group of promising sophomores, could get them there.

CHARLOTTE

COACH: Tom Massolio (20th year)

LAST SEASON: 18-11, lost to Largo in Region 6A-3 quarterfinals
DISTRICT: 7A-10 Teams: Cape Coral, Charlotte, Ida Baker, Island Coast, Lemon Bay, North Fort Myers, Port Charlotte
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Brandon Gonzalez, Jackson Beers, Brian Thatcher

KEY RETURNERS: Will Batts (Sr., C), Trevor Bokon (Sr. PG), Jake Haas (Sr., F), Brian Hundt (Sr., G)

KEY NEWCOMERS: Mackengie Simon (Jr., F), Ahmad Johnson (So., G)

OUTLOOK: The Tarpons have three seniors in Batts, Bokon and Haas who all have a significant amount of varsity experience. Where Brandon Gonzalez was a consistent top scorer last year, Coach Massolio wouldn’t be surprised to see a different leading scorer every night. A district championship rematch against Port Charlotte could be in order.

NORTH PORT

COACH: Ryan Power (1st year)
LAST SEASON: 11-17, lost to Lakewood Ranch in Region 7A-3 quarterfinals

DISTRICT: 8A-12 Teams: Gulf Coast, North Port, Riverdale
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Joe Sinopoli
KEY RETURNERS: Zach Babut (Sr., SG), Bryan O’Boyle (Jr., G/F), Brandon Graff (Jr., PG)
KEY NEWCOMERS: Gene Oliver (Sr., G)
OUTLOOK: First-year head coach Ryan Power expects his team to be competitive in 2016-17. Senior Babut will lead the team with juniors O’Boyle and Graff as major contributors. Eric Baker is someone who will contribute more as the season progresses, as he continues to recover from ACL surgery.

IMAGINE SCHOOL

COACH: Clark Davis (1st year)
DISTRICT: 3A-5 Teams: Bradenton Christian, Gulf Coast HEAT, Imagine St. Stephen’s, Sarasota Christian, Out-of-Door
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Quadir Waters

KEY RETURNERS: Larry Destine (Sr., G), Lance Marland (Jr., C/F), Dishod Jenkins (So., G), Patrick Grzywna (So., F)
KEY NEWCOMERS: Anthony Moore (Sr., G), Rinaldo Manderlou (Jr., G)
OUTLOOK: Last year’s team mostly revolved around Waters, but this year the Sharks will have a more balanced attack.  Destine will step in as the lead player and was named captain. He’ll have guard Jenkins and forward Marland to work with, who will be a down low threat on offense and defense.

COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN

COACH: Kurt Taylor (2nd year)

LAST SEASON: 21-6, lost in FCAA championship
DISTRICT: Independent
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Ben Sierra, Blake Via, Jacob Foster

KEY RETURNERS: Josh Foster (Jr., SG), Jonathan Joyce (So., SG), Luis Rivera (Fr., G), Ethan Bray (Fr., PG),
KEY NEWCOMERS: James Boutchia (Sr., PF), Jake Orr (So., C), Brandon Hill (8th, G/F)
.
OUTLOOK: The Mustangs lost all five starters from last year’s team, but return a talented young core. Foster will probably be the go-to guy of the returning players, with Joyce and Rivera making big improvements from last year.  Hill, an eighth-grader, will likely play some big minutes .

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