By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Frequent fliers would be jealous of all the free points Charlotte High School earned Friday night against rival Port Charlotte.
The Tarpons hit 15 consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter to help hold on for a 51-48 win, and hand the Pirates a loss for the second time this season.
“I just think it was our preparation,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “I thought we prepared really well yesterday. I thought it was the best time we’ve prepared all year. Even in the first game (against Port Charlotte) we didn’t have the day before because we played on a Monday.
“Yesterday was phenomenal getting ready for them.”
Port Charlotte ended the third quarter with seven team fouls for the half, leaving themselves with just three to give before triggering the double bonus and an automatic two free throws for Charlotte (8-7, 6-2 in District 7A-10) on any foul.
Trevor Bokon and Ahmad Johnson combined to go 13 of 14 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, with Bokon’s only miss coming with 2.3 seconds left on the clock and Port Charlotte with no timeouts and needing a prayer answered to force overtime.
“We talk about it, and getting to the line and knocking them down,” Massolio said. “I knew coming into the year we were a really good free-throw shooting team. I thought we had a chance to be really good. Trevor is close to being the all-time free-throw percentage guy. I’ll have to look at that.”
Sean Price missed a half-court 3-point attempt as time expired, but ended the night with a game-high 25 points, including an earlier buzzer-beater to close out the third quarter to give his Pirates a 39-33 lead. Price scored seven of his team’s nine points in the fourth quarter, as they finished with 17 fouls for just the second half.
“We fouled way too darn much (in the fourth quarter). That’s what we did in the last quarter,” Port Charlotte coach Bill Specht said. “That was one of our emphases, you can’t put them on the free-throw line. You have to make them earn what they get.
“I said that at the gym before we left. I reminded them (Charlotte) had 34 free-throw attempts last game. What do we do in the fourth quarter? The same exact thing as last time.”
The Pirates (11-2, 6-2) led 18-10 at one point in the second quarter, but an 11-0 run with the help of six points in the period by Bokon gave the Tarpons a three-point advantage, in a game which saw 14 lead changes throughout the night.
Bokon had 13 points in the game and a trio of assists and steals. Johnson had a team-high 17 for Charlotte.
Price hit five 3-pointers throughout the night and also finished with a game-best 10 rebounds, while also adding three assists.
CHARLOTTE 51, PORT CHARLOTTE 48
Port Charlotte 12 12 15 9 — 48
Charlotte 10 13 10 18 — 51
Port Charlotte (48): Sean Price 25, Fleurissant 7, Gainey 7, Perry 5, Dunn-Perez 2, Morris 2. Totals: 18(6) 6-12 48.
Charlotte (51): Ahmad Johnson 17, Trevor Bokon 13, Haas 7, Batts 6, Grant 3, Lee 4, Reaves 1. Totals: 12(4) 23-26 51.