By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte senior Jake Haas celebrated Senior Night at Wally Keller Gymnasium with a career-high 22 points Thursday as the Tarpons defeated First Baptist Academy of Naples, 77-61, to close the regular season.
Haas put the Tarpons on top early with a trio of 3-point baskets en route to scoring 16 points in the first quarter as Charlotte jumped out to a 25-18 lead.
“I’ve been stroking it lately,” Haas said. “I was eight for my last eight coming in and five for eight tonight. It couldn’t be any more memorable.”
However, the Lions were able to match the Tarpons from long range. Both squads made 9 treys apiece during the game and the visitors used that to close within 37-34 at halftime.
First Baptist hung tough during the third quarter, pulling to within a point several times, but Charlotte responded each time. The Tarpons finally pulled away in the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run keyed by senior Will Batts and sophomore Ahmad Johnson.
“Our depth kind of wore them down even though we didn’t rotate as much as we usually do,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said. “But they’ve got three kids who can put the ball in the basket and they did a nice job, especially early.”
Said Haas: “They were shooting lights out in the first three quarters. We just turned it on defensively. We were a little lackadaisical in the first three quarters.”
Johnson finished with 18 points and Batts totaled 16. Preston Urbancic led the Lions (16-7) with 19.
Next up for the Tarpons (14-11) is the district tournament next week. Charlotte will be the top seed and host a semifinal Wednesday night.
“We shot the ball really well tonight, which we’ve been doing for the last week and a half,” Massolio said. “We’re starting to get everybody back so guys are back in normal spots so it’s a little bit more of a comfort zone for them. I was very happy with us tonight.”
Added Haas: “We’re on a roll. We got back our guys who’ve been sick and injured so everything is meshing really good right now.”
CHARLOTTE 77, FIRST BAPTIST 61
First Baptist 18 16 17 10 — 61: Preston Urbancic 19, Joel Cotti 16, Zac Brecher 11, Hoge 6, Watts 4, Stewart 3, Jordan 2. Totals: 22 (9) 8-10.
Charlotte 25 12 19 21 — 77: Jake Haas 22, Ahmad Johnson 18, Will Batts 16, Scribner 6, Simon 5, Reaves 3, Ingle 3, Grant 2, Hundt 2. Totals: 28 (9) 12-14.