By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PORT CHARLOTTE – The Port Charlotte High School girls basketball team got an early test of its metal playing a District 7A-10 game in its season opener, against defending champion Cape Coral, no less.
The Pirates learned that while they have the grit, they need to execute better, especially down the stretch when it counts the most.
Cape Coral squandered an 11-point lead before rallying behind the clutch shooting of Crystal Tisme and Diedre Cheramond for a 44-41 win Tuesday at the Pirate Cove.
Tisme scored 13 points and hit two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second of which gave the Seahawks the lead for good with 4:36 left in the game.
The Pirates stayed in the rearview mirror and had several chances, but Cape Coral made the big free throws and got the rebounds on the ones they missed.
The Pirates had a final chance in the closing seconds, but Cheramond made her sixth steal of the game to seal the win.
Cape Coral coach Alexis Griffin was happy with a district win on the road on an evening where they struggled at the line (9 for 21), but made them when they needed them (5 for 7).
“Games are won on the defensive side of the floor. We communicated on defense and we were smart on offense,” Griffin said. “We executed and kept our composure. It’s a good road win for us.”
Cape Coral appeared to break the game open with a 13-0 run in the first and second quarters to build an 18-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Port Charlotte (0-1, 0-1) chipped away to make it 20-14 at the half, made some adjustments at halftime, and the Pirates got their run as Celia Baermann, who led the Pirates with 15 points, drained two threes to put the Pirates on top 30-29 after three quarters.
The lead changed hands 10 times with five ties, including several times in the fourth. Ashlyn Henderson made a pair of threes to pace the Pirates, but Tisme’s shots put the Seahawks over the top.
Joilynn Lews led the Seahawks (2-0, 1-0) with 15 points, while Cheremond scored 10 with five rebounds.
Ashlyn Henderson had 10 points for Port Charlotte.
Port Charlotte coach Kevin Purcell said it was the missed rebounds at the end that may have been the difference.
“They were on the line shooting one-and-ones, we had inside position and let two possessions go we couldn’t get back. That’s possibly four points,” Purcell said. “I’m proud of my team’s energy. We were still diving around the court in the fourth quarter.”
CAPE CORAL 44, PORT CHARLOTTE 41
Cape Coral 10 10 9 15 – 44
Port Charlotte 7 7 16 11 – 41
Cape Coral (44): Joilynn Lews 15, Crystal Tisme 13, Diedre Cheremond 10, White 6. Totals: 16(3) 9-21 44.
Port Charlotte (41): Celia Baermann 15, Henderson 10, Dempaire 6, Livingston 5, Dennard 3, Guerrier 2. Totals: 12(4) 13-17 41.