By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ARCADIA — In a game that lacked its offense, DeSoto County High School had just enough late against Port Charlotte Thursday night.
The Bulldogs exploded for a 16-point fourth quarter and held on to defeat the Pirates 39-33 at home. Aleaha Richardson and Tigbona Hatcher each scored 12 points for DeSoto County, which won its second straight game after losing three in a row to begin the season.
Hatcher scored five of her 12 in the fourth and helped the Bulldogs on a 10-0 run when the game was tied at 28. DeSoto County won the game despite making only one field goal in the third quarter and blowing an early 9-point lead.
“When they took the lead that made us fight harder so that’s a good thing that happened to us,” DeSoto County coach Joe Davis said. “It showed us we can have a lead, lose it — normally the whole team would’ve dropped our head — but this time we kept our head up and continued to fight.”
Janae Dennard scored a game-high 14 points for the Pirates (1-6), who have now dropped three straight. The Bulldogs (2-3) used pressure on defense to generate 17 steals, including eight by Hatcher, and outrebounded the Pirates 43-33 thanks to 15 boards from Shaterrica Luther, who also scored seven points.
“We were weak with the basketball outside and weak inside and that’s something we preach everyday so we’re either going to have to learn it or something is going to have to change,” Port Charlotte coach Kevin Purcell said.
The teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 23 and found themselves tied at 28 before DeSoto County pulled away. A free throw by Luther put the Bulldogs in front for good with 5:28 to go and started the decisive 10-0 run.
Luther followed her free throw with a layup to extend the lead to three and then a free throw by Janine Lorraine and a jumper by Hatcher put the Bulldogs up 34-28. Port Charlotte continued to miss shots on the other end while Lorraine made another layup and Hatcher turned a steal into a fast break layup to put DeSoto County up 10.
“Aleaha was big tonight but I love all of them,” Davis said. “They all play their role. Each one of them has a special role and if they’re good in their roles we’ll get Ws.”
The Bulldogs led 13-4 after the first quarter and the Pirates didn’t even make a field goal until Dennard’s layup with 1:48 to go in the period. Port Charlotte chipped away at the lead in the second and back-to-back buckets by Dennard and Rachael Livingston cut DeSoto County’s lead to 16-11 at halftime.
The Pirates took that momentum into the third quarter and eventually took the lead when Celia Baermann drained a 3-pointer to put her team up 19-18. Baermann and company outscored DeSoto County 12-7 in the frame and held the Bulldogs without a field goal until Richardson made a layup with five seconds to go in the quarter.
But the difference in the game came at the free throw line, where the Pirates shot just 6/17 and 2/6 in the fourth quarter while the Bulldogs grew their lead. Port Charlotte also missed plenty of layups and shots in the paint that came back to haunt them.
“We made a little run there right before halftime. I thought we were going to come out and kind of close the gap a little bit but nope,” Purcell said. “We battled until the end but we got steal after steal and couldn’t convert. We dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out of it.”
DESOTO COUNTY 39, PORT CHARLOTTE 33
Port Charlotte 4 7 12 10 — 33
DeSoto County 13 3 7 16 — 39
Port Charlotte (33): Janae Dennard 14, Baermann 6, Henderson 5, Livingston 4, Guerrier 3, Dempaire 1. Totals: 13 (1) 6-17-33.
DeSoto County (44): Tigbona Hatcher 12, Aleaha Richardson 12, Luther 7, Lorraine 4, Walker 4. Totals: 13 (4) 9-24-39.