By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — The North Port High School boys basketball team didn’t need any players to score in double digits Tuesday night against Charlotte.
The Bobcats were able to defeat the Tarpons with a balanced attack, 49-45, after winning for a majority of the night, and then re-gaining the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“I’m very, very proud of my team,” North Port coach Ryan Power said. “They’ve shown early in the season a maturity level a lot of teams lack. In a road game, going down by three, they easily could’ve put their heads down, but instead they got a stop on defense and stepped it up on the offensive end.”
A Tarpon rally in the fourth quarter brought the score to 39-39 with 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the game. A few seconds later, Jake Haas hit a 3-pointer to give Charlotte a 42-39 advantage, which was their first lead of the entire night.
Gene Oliver responded with a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game at 42, and then another triple came from Zach Babut with 1:30 left to give the Bobcats a 45-42 lead. North Port (6-2) would manage to protect the lead for the remainder of the game.
No Bobcat scored in double figures in the win. Eric Baker had a team-high nine points. Adam Cohen, Ben Via and Babut each had eight points. Oliver and Bryson Thieme both scored seven.
“The beautiful thing about this team is you never know who’s going to score,” Power said. “And the guys don’t care who does. Each game we’ve had a different leader pretty much the entire season, and that’s how it going to be from here on out.”
The game took a momentary back seat with 1:03 remaining when Mackengie Simon suffered an injury after a Bobcat basket made it 47-42. Simon was writhing and screaming in pain from an apparent elbow injury and the game was delayed for about 20 minutes as paramedics attended to him. The paramedics eventually had to use a stretcher to take him off the court.
“He’s arguably the best player on our team,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “But that’s part of the game. North Port has a young man who’s been hurt, but you just have to go out there and produce. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We feel sorry for McKengie because he was having a phenomenal year, but we have to turn back around and play another game tomorrow.”
Simon had a game-high 16 points for the Tarpons (4-3) and his nine second-half points were instrumental in the comeback attempt for Charlotte. Ahmad Johnson, who ended the night with 15 points, was also clutch in the third and fourth quarters for Charlotte.
The Tarpons overcame a first quarter where they scored just seven points, something that has become typical for the Charlotte offense.
“We’ve been like that all year in the first quarter,” Massolio said. “I can’t for the life of me give you an answer on why that is. We had another single-digit quarter. But we stuck with it, battled and had an opportunity in this game.”
NORTH PORT 49, CHARLOTTE 45
North Port 17 8 10 14 — 49
Charlotte 7 11 12 15 — 45
North Port (49): Baker 9, Z. Babut 8, Cohen 8, Via 8, Oliver 7, Thieme 7, Graff 2. Totals: 18(6) 7-11 49.
Charlotte (45): Mackengie Simon 16, Ahmad Johnson 15, Haas 6, Reeves 3, Batts 3, Ingle 2. Totals: 18(2) 7-12 45.