By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — When Port Charlotte High School faced off against DeSoto County back in December, coach Bill Specht picked up his 400th career win.
That was a special night for Specht and the Pirates, and while Monday night’s rematch may not have been as memorable, it yielded the same result – another Pirates’ victory.
Paced by 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Sean Price, Port Charlotte rolled to a 61-25 win over DeSoto County at home. Shemar Fleurissant added 10 points and six boards while Elijah Johnson chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
The entire fourth quarter was played with a running clock as the Pirates led by as many as 43 in a game they never trailed.
“We just wanted to start the week off with momentum,” Price said. “Next week is districts and we’re the third seed and we weren’t too happy about it so we’re trying to build up towards next week.”
Monday night was the first of three games this week before the Pirates face off against Ida Baker in next Tuesday’s district tournament quarterfinal. With North Port on deck Tuesday night and Senior Night slated for Thursday against South Fort Myers, Specht was pleased to see his team come out ready to play from the start instead of overlooking the Bulldogs, who the Pirates defeated 60-40 on Dec. 7.
“Our hustle was really good. We’ve had some games where we’ve been up and down, but I felt tonight we came out and played really hard and I think that’s a good sign going into districts,” Specht said. “I’m proud of the way their intensity was. We came out and we weren’t flat so that’s a good sign.”
DeSoto County (2-18) briefly tied the game at 4-4 early on before Port Charlotte (16-3) went on a 19-3 run to close out the first quarter, highlighted by a ferocious putback dunk by Price. The Pirates got a little sloppy offensively in the second with a few turnovers, but their defense was sound all night.
The Bulldogs struggled to put the ball in the hoop, at one point going more than eight minutes without a field goal in the first half. Arnold Mele ended the drought with a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go in the 2nd quarter, but by that point, the Pirates had already built a 20-point lead and eventually went into halftime ahead 34-12.
“Our defense is what we base our program on,” Specht said. “The last few games I thought we could have been better at it. Against Cape Coral [last week] we held them to 20 at halftime and then they ended up with 64 at the end of the game so we’ve had stretches where we don’t lock down. We’ve tried to put the emphasis on that.”
Price took it upon himself to really put the game to bed in the third quarter. The senior scored seven straight points to begin the second half, displaying his versatile offensive repertoire – a jumper, a driving layup in traffic and one of his two 3-pointers.
Those were Price’s last points of the night as he left midway through the quarter with Port Charlotte well in front, 41-12.
“I felt like the first half was a little sloppy for me so I came just came out in the second half and tried to be more in attack mode,” Price said.
Port Charlotte started a running clock with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a basket by Brandon Gainey, who finished with eight points.
Mele and Tyler Vest each made two 3-pointers and finished with eight points apiece to lead DeSoto County.
PORT CHARLOTTE 61, DESOTO COUNTY 25
DeSoto County 7 5 4 9 – 25
Port Charlotte 23 11 17 10 – 61
DeSoto County (25): Mele 8, Vest 8, Hinson 6, Evans 2, Hillard 1. Totals: 9(4) 3-4 25.
Port Charlotte (61): Sean Price 16, Elijah Johnson 12, Shemar Fleurissant 10, Gainey 8, Morris 5, Perry 5, Cleveland 3, Battle 2. Totals: 25(6) 5-11 61.