By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Emani Jefferson is only a freshman.
It’s important to know that because freshmen don’t typically do what she did Thursday night for the North Port High School girls basketball team.
Jefferson flirted with the possibility of a quadruple-double, but settled for a double-double in a 64-53 come-from-behind win for the Bobcats over Charlotte.
“She’s as good as any freshman I’ve seen around,” North Port coach Dale Huffman said. “There’s only a few girls who are better than her at the guard position.
“You think about what she’s going to do her junior or senior year. She’s going to come out of her freshman year with over 300 points. She’s got a chance to be the all-time leading scorer here.”
Jefferson ended her night with 12 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals.
The Tarpons entered halftime with a 27-23 lead, but nine turnovers – four in the first three minutes – led to a 16-4 run for the Bobcats, and it was quickly a 39-31 North Port lead.
“Capitalizing on turnovers was huge because we’ve had it happen to us so many times,” Huffman said. “The third quarter is what busted it open. Coming out (of halftime) and jumping on them, we always talk about the first three minutes. We said we had to make a statement right away.”
Aryana Hough scored nine of her 13 points in that 24-point third quarter for the Bobcats (13-8). They grabbed their second lead of the night at 31-29 with 4:50 remaining in the third and never relinquished it.
“A lot of turnovers and we didn’t execute down the stretch,” Charlotte coach Matt Stephenson said. “We just met a team who wanted it more than us tonight and we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game tonight, and that’s what happens when you don’t do that.”
The Tarpons (11-7) were missing forward Michelle Bunch, who was out with an injury. Bunch’s absence allowed Bobcat center Alexis Francavilla to have her way on the offensive glass, bringing down eight offensive rebounds, totaling 23 points and 12 boards on the night.
“It’s a huge miss,” Stephenson said. “She’s a senior on this basketball team, and it definitely shows. She leads in rebounds when she’s out there and gives us more of an inside presence when she’s out there on the floor.”
Taylor Kirkus held her own against Francavilla, finishing with 10 rebounds. Kayla Lamb had a team-high 20 points for Charlotte, but went 11 for 20 from the foul line. Kelyn Moses scored 15 points.
Just like in the third quarter, the Bobcats forced nine Tarpon turnovers in the second quarter, with four early takeaways leading to points. Charlotte once led 15-6 in the first quarter, but a 10-0 run in the second quarter gave the Bobcats a 16-15 lead.
That lead for North Port came on a Kamryn Nazario 3-pointer, as she finished the night with 10 points and four assists.
The Bobcats’ win was their fifth in a row to close out the regular season.
“Our goal since we started this run was: win six and let’s see what happens in the district championship,” Huffman said.
Charlotte still has one more game, which is Friday against Riverview. North Port’s next game is a District 8A-12 semifinal against Riverdale next week at home.
NORTH PORT 64, CHARLOTTE 53
Charlotte 15 12 8 18 — 53
North Port 8 15 24 17 — 64
Charlotte (53): Kayla Lamb 20, Kelyn Moses 15, Qualls 7, M. Moses 5, Griffin 4, Underwood 1. Totals: 16(2) 19-32 53.
North Port (64): Alexis Francavilla 23, Aryana Hough 13, Emani Jefferson 12, Kamryn Nazario 10, Blakeney 4, Gonzalez 2. Totals: 26(2) 10-17 64.