By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Friday’s game between Port Charlotte and North Port ended with both coaches unhappy from the performance of their teams.
Pirates coach Bill Specht wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort for the entirety of the game. Bobcats coach Ryan Power didn’t like the way his team closed things out. Specht and Port Charlotte at least went home with the victory, as the Pirates came from behind to grab a 68-64 win at home.
“We got out-hustled, out-physicaled and probably out-coached, too,” Specht said. “Our kids found a way to win at the end. Probably because we were able to make free throws. We have to play tougher than what we are right now, that’s the bottom line.”
Sean Price scored 10 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to help lead Port Charlotte (2-0). Shemer Fleurissant hit 6 of 8 from the foul line down the stretch to help seal the win.
Price and North Port’s Gene Oliver went back and forth all night exchanging baskets both inside and from behind the arc. Oliver and the Bobcats led from just under two minutes remaining in the first half until the Pirates tied it at 61-61 with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Oliver ended with 27 points, a dozen on four 3-pointers. In addition to his 10 points in the final period, Price also scored 10 in both the first and third quarters, and added six rebounds and four steals.
“He returned to North Port and we knew he was going to be a big key to this team,” Power said of Oliver. “He’s getting back into rhythm after not playing last season, but he stepped up and had a big game when we needed him to.”
North Port (2-2) led by as many as nine points in the third quarter before Port Charlotte was eventually able to close the period trailing 49-45.
Fouls were a problem for North Port in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter. North Port suffered 15 fouls in the quarter and three different Bobcats fouled out.
Even though that played a factor, Power thought there was another area they slacked down the stretch.
“I don’t think fouling was really our issue. The big issue was (Port Charlotte’s) full-court press and a couple of turnovers that really let them back into the game,” Power said. “I thought we played an excellent game, but two or three turnovers were the difference in this one.”
The Bobcats got nine points and six rebounds out of Ben Via. Zach Babut had eight points, five rebounds and four assists. Brandon Graff and Eric Baker each had six points, with Graff adding seven rebounds.
Bryson Thieme had a game-high eight rebounds, six of which were offensive boards. Second-chance opportunities helped North Port, which collected 15 offensive rebounds.
“They would shoot it and go get it right by our kids. And our kids would just stand there and let them do it,” Specht said. “I give their kids a lot of credit. They hustled their tails off. We’ve got to do a better job at learning how to hustle and how to learn to be physical.”
For Port Charlotte, Fleurissant ended with 13 points. The Pirates were outrebounded 40-25.
PORT CHARLOTTE 68, NORTH PORT 64
North Port 20 16 13 15 — 64
Port Charlotte 17 14 14 23 — 68
North Port (64): Gene Oliver 27, Via 9, Babut 8, Baker 6, Graff 6, Thieme 5, Cohen 3. Totals: 26(7) 5-13 64.
Port Charlotte (68): Sean Price 30, Shemer Fleurissant 13, Morris 7, Romero 6, Perry 4, Cleveland 3, Gainey 3, Campbell 2. Totals: 21(5) 21-32 68.