GIRLS BASKETBALL: Charlotte falls short of district title, still advances to regionals

By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports

Charlotte Tarpon Michelle Bunch (31) looks to shoot against Cape Coral during the first period Friday at Charlotte High School (Sun Photo by Tom O’Neill).

Charlotte Tarpon Michelle Bunch (31) looks to shoot against Cape Coral during the first period Friday at Charlotte High School (Sun Photo by Tom O’Neill).

PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte High School simply had no answers for Cape Coral’s Deidre Cheremond on Thursday in the District 7A-10 championship.

Cheremond dominated the game with 25 points and 15 rebounds on the way to a 36-32 win for the Seahawks, and their second consecutive district title.

“She’s a good athlete. She makes fits for us all the time,” Charlotte coach Matt Stephenson said. “It’s kind of tough to guard her any way because she’s so athletic. She gives us issues and that was the thing tonight.”

At one point in the game, Cheremond had 18 of her team’s 22 points, and scored all eight Cape Coral points in the second quarter, but free throws were nearly her Achilles heal. She came to the line with 26.5 seconds remaining on the clock and her team up 33-32.

Cheremond missed her only free-throw shot, and following a Charlotte timeout, the Tarpons had an opportunity to grab a late lead.

Kelyn Moses had a layup attempt with 18 seconds left, but couldn’t convert it. Charlotte was forced to foul Cheremond again, but this time, she didn’t miss her shots giving her team a 35-32 lead.

The Seahawks didn’t even allow the Tarpons to get a shot off on the ensuing possession, as Joilyn Lewis stole the ball from Kayla Lamb the instant the touched it.

“Our huge key was defense,” Cape Coral coach Alexiss Griffin said. “Defense wins championships and it showed. We made adjustments. They’re a great team. I’m very proud of my girls. They listened to what we told them to do, they played hard, they played with heart and we came out with the big win tonight.”

It was that Seahawk defense which forced 19 Tarpon turnovers. Crystal Tisme led the defensive effort with a game-high seven steals.

With how dominating Cheremond and the Cape Coral defense was, the game would not have been as close as it was if not for Michelle Bunch, who had a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

Taylor Kirkus grabbed a key offensive rebound and then hit two free throws after being fouled, late in the game to cut the Seahawk lead to 33-32 at the time.

“Shots weren’t falling. We weren’t getting clean looks to the basket,” Stephenson said. “The three ball wasn’t going. Opportunities inside, we couldn’t convert and we missed a lot of opportunities.”

The game was tied eight different times, and Cape Coral never led by more than four points.

Lamb finished with eight points and a pair of assists. Kirkus had four points and five rebounds. Moses was held to just three points.

Charlotte will go on the road next week to face Clearwater, who defeated Northeast in the District 7A-9 championship.

“That’s what basketball is all about,” Stephenson said. “These ladies always seem to bounce back when it matters. This is a tough one to swallow tonight, but we have a couple of days to prep. The season is still going. These girls just have to fight.”

Cape Coral will host Northeast. Both games are on Thursday.

Cape Coral   13   8   5   10  —   36
Charlotte      11   9   4    8   —   32

Cape Coral (36): Deidre Cheremond 25, White 4, Tisme 3, Lewis 2, Hardin 2. Totals: 14(0) 7-14 36.
Charlotte (32): Michelle Bunch 11, Lamb 8, Kirkus 4, Qualls 4, K. Moses 3, Burton 2. Totals: 11(0) 10-13 32.

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