By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Whether you’re a fan of scoring performances or a defensive battle, Tuesday’s game between Port Charlotte and North Port High School had a little bit of something for everyone.
Sean Price scored 20 first-half points to lead the Pirates to a 52-41 victory over the Bobcats.
The two teams combined to score just 13 points in the third quarter, as the second half saw an increase in defensive intensity. After the first quarter, Port Charlotte (19-3) had used a scheme they had barely touched all year.
“We have played a 2-3 zone a total of 10 minutes all year,” Port Charlotte coach Bill Specht said. “And we sat in it for three-straight quarters. I knew going in I was going to use it, but we waited until the start of the second quarter, and then it kept working and working.
“This is playoff time of year. If the defense your team is using is working, you keep with it.”
The zone defense held North Port to 27 points over the final three quarters, as the Bobcats (14-8) couldn’t get any inside scoring, and even open shots weren’t falling.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t hit the side of a barn, and when you can’t hit shots, it makes it very hard to come back,” North Port coach Ryan Power said. “When Bryan O’Boyle is getting wide-open 3-pointers, we’re going to live with that because he’s a heck of a shooter and we have confidence he’s going to take them.
“They defended the rim very well and didn’t give anything easy.”
O’Boyle finished with a team-high 11 points, and he sank one of four 3-pointers the Bobcats had as a team.
Last time these two teams faced off, North Port led for nearly the entirety of the game before Port Charlotte came back with 90 seconds remaining to take the lead. The Pirates led for a majority of the game Tuesday, but they never relinquished it after going up 17-14 to end the first.
“We’re a little bit of a tougher team than we were back in December,” Specht said. “I thought last time they out-physicaled us the first game. Tonight, we held our own on the boards.”
The Pirates led 33-23 at halftime and maintained that 10-point margin for much of the second half. The Bobcats brought it to within six points in the fourth, but that’s all they managed.
Price finished his night with a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds. He also had a pair of assists.
Bryce Cleveland scored nine points off the bench for Port Charlotte. Shemar Fleurissant had eight points.
For the Bobcats, Bryan Thieme scored eight points with four rebounds. Zach Babut had eight points and Ben Via was held to five points.
PORT CHARLOTTE 52, NORTH PORT 41
Port Charlotte 17 16 8 11 — 52
North Port 14 9 5 13 — 41
Port Charlotte (52): Sean Price 24, Cleveland 9, Fleurissant 8, Morris 6, Perry 3, Gainey 2. Totals: 18(5) 11-13 52.
North Port (41): Bryan O’Boyle 11, Thieme 8, Z. Babut 7, Via 5, Graff 4, Oliver 3, D. Babut 2, Cohen 1. Totals: 13(4) 11-19 41.