By Chuck Ballaro, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA — When the game was on the line, it was the Lehigh boys basketball team that made all the plays in its non-district contest with Charlotte.
Shard Edwards hit a big three-point play with less than three minutes remaining in the game to give Lehigh the lead for good in a 58-52 victory over Charlotte at the Wally Keller gymnasium.
The Lightning (11-3) finished the game on an 8-0 run after Charlotte took the lead early in the fourth quarter. Jake Haas hit a lay-up to tie the game at 50 before Ahmad Johnson, who led the Tarpons with 18 points, hit both ends of a one-and-one to give Charlotte a 52-50 lead.
That’s when Lehigh found another gear.
Jon Silva had a key steal, setting up Edwards, who scored a game-high 19 points (15 after halftime), for his layup and foul that gave the Lightning the lead for good, as they made 6 of 7 free throws down the stretch and shut the Tarpons down on defense to seal the win.
“When you come here, you know you’re going to face a disciplined team. What’s what we’ve struggled with in the past,” Lehigh coach Greg Coleman said. “We did a good job staying in front of these guys in crunch time. Our defense played great except for the first quarter.”
The game was close throughout. Johnson helped keep the Tarpons (7-5) close early with nine points to tie the game at 16 after one quarter.
Charlotte led by as many as seven points in the second quarter before Lehigh closed to within 28-27 at halftime and concluded its 11-0 run early in the third for a 32-28 lead.
Makai Reeves, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, brought the Tarpons back with two threes, but Silva hit a triple in the closing seconds of the third quarter for a 48-45 lead, setting up the finish.
Charlotte coach Tom Massolio was wondering where that disciplined team Coleman was talking about went, especially at the end of each quarter.
Lehigh went on a 5-0 run to end the first, 6-0 to end the half, hit a 3-pointer at the end of the third and ran off seven points in the last 40 seconds.
“We didn’t make good decisions. We have to be a batter team and make better decisions,” Massolio said. “We had the ball four times (Late in the game) and turned it over, took a bad shot, didn’t execute and gave them opportunities. They’re a good team and they make runs.”
LEHIGH 58, CHARLOTTE 52
Lehigh 16 11 21 10 — 58: Shard Edwards 19, Malik Martin 11, J. Martin 9, Green 7, Silva 6, Ruiz 4, Desamours 2. Totals: 21 (5) 11-16.
Charlotte 16 12 17 7 — 52: Ahmad Johnson 18, Makai Reaves 10, Haas 8, Grant 8, Ingle 6, Scribner 2. Totals: 19 (4) 10-15.