By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Tuesday night’s game against Southwest Florida Christian Academy couldn’t have started much better for Charlotte High School.
The Tarpons jumped out to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game and it looked as if they’d cruise to their 11th win of the year.
But that lead was very short-lived.
After that, it was all Kings.
Led by 21 points, five rebounds and six steals from Caleb Catto, SFCA rolled to a 58-41 road win over Charlotte, which lost its third straight and fell a game below .500. Jadrian Tracey, Dillon Martino and Jacob Tracey also scored nine points apiece for the Kings, who led by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter.
Catto made three 3-pointers and scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to help the Kings pull away.
“They’re a very good basketball team so we knew we had a tough task ahead of us,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “We started the game out and executed really well and kind of got away from that. This group has got to be able to execute to be successful offensively. That team averages (nearly) 70 points a game, so defensively we did a pretty good job. They got some trash buckets here and there but we have to do a better job executing.”
After Charlotte opened the game with back-to-back buckets by Will Batts and Makai Reaves, Jake Haas nailed one of his three 3-pointers to give the Tarpons (10-11) a quick seven-point lead. But the Kings (20-2) answered with a 15-1 run to close the quarter and never trailed again.
Haas was the only Tarpon to score in double figures, finishing with 12 points. While Charlotte’s defense held a SFCA offense under its season average of 68.5 points, its offense struggled to put the ball in the basket.
With the Tarpons in catch-up most of the night, they fell in love with the 3-point shot. Only problem was, it wasn’t falling. Beside Haas, Kenny Scribner made Charlotte’s only other 3-pointer.
“We’ve got to hit some threes to be effective and we just didn’t hit them,” Massolio said.
Charlotte went nearly an entire quarter without a field goal after its initial burst until Haas hit a three with 6:45 to go in the second quarter to cut SFCA’s lead to 19-11. The Kings led by as many as 11 in the first half but went into halftime up just 25-19.
Scribner then opened the second half with a layup to pull the Tarpons within four but that’s as close as they got the rest of the game.
When the shots weren’t falling, Charlotte also couldn’t pull down rebounds for second shot opportunities. The Kings outrebounded the Tarpons 28-11 and got a game-high eight boards from Martino.
The Tarpons went with just an eight-man rotation as they were without starting point guard Brian Hundt, leading scorer Ahmad Johnson and star player Mackengie Simon. Spencer Ingle and Kenny Scribner each scored nine points playing in extended roles for Charlotte.
“We are limited offensively right now. But we’ve got to get out and battle. Whoever we put on the floor, we expect to win each night. We have to do a better job,” Massolio said.
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA CHRISTIAN 58, CHARLOTTE 41
SWFL Christian 15 10 17 16 — 58
Charlotte 8 11 11 11 — 41
Southwest Florida Christian (58): Caleb Catto 21, Martino 9, Jac. Tracey 9, Jad. Tracey 9, Baker 6, Cochran 2, Jacobs 2. Totals: 22(4)
Charlotte (41): Jake Haas 12, Ingle 9, Scribner 9, Reaves 5, Batts 2, Lee 2, Phanor 2. Totals: 15(4) 7-11 41.