By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Ida Baker High School played like a team that had nothing to lose coming out of the gates Tuesday night against Port Charlotte.
The No. 6 Bulldogs started the game on fire, but couldn’t sustain it the entire night, falling to No. 3 Port Charlotte 73-43 in the district 7A-10 quarterfinals.
“It was a very sluggish start, to put it mildly,” Port Charlotte coach Bill Specht said. “We’ve got some kids who just haven’t been in that situation before, and there were some nerves. It’s good to get the first one out of the way, but we can’t play with nerves. We have to play loose.”
Port Charlotte trailed 20-15 midway through the second quarter, but a 34-8 run over the next quarter and a half gave them a 49-28 lead near the end of the third quarter.
Shemar Fleurissant had seven points, all on free throws, during that stretch. He ended his night with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Sean Price essentially evenly spread 22 points throughout the game while also hitting three 3-pointers. He also added eight rebounds and a pair of blocks and assists.
In the win, 11 different Pirates (21-3) scored, as a few junior varsity players were called up for the game, getting some playing time at the end.
The Pirates took a 23-22 lead with 1:03 left in the second quarter, and never trailed again.
They were aided by aggressive Bulldog mistakes. Twice in the second quarter, an Ida Baker player committed a foul, disagreed with the call, and immediately picked up a technical foul after, giving Port Charlotte four extra free-throw attempts.
“Our biggest problem all season is we get a little frazzled in situations like that,” Ida Baker coach Trevor Cottrell said. “We can be a pretty good basketball team when we don’t turn the ball over, and this is a team you can’t do that against.”
By the end of the night, four different Bulldogs (6-16) fouled out, and two of them came in the third quarter.
Devin Hanley had a game-high 24 points for Ida Baker, hitting six 3-pointers. Navard Barnes also had 10 points.
Klayton Morris added eight points and three assists for Port Charlotte.
With the win, the Pirates advance to face Cape Coral Wednesday night in Cape Coral. Last time those two teams faced off, the Seahawks came away with a win in overtime.
“We gave up 20 points at halftime, and then came out in the second half and gave up 44 points,” Specht said. “We didn’t keep up the defensive intensity in the second half. We let one kid get going. That’s the biggest reason (we lost).”
The Pirates won the first matchup in Port Charlotte.
PORT CHARLOTTE 73, IDA BAKER 43
Ida Baker 17 8 8 10 — 43
Port Charlotte 15 18 17 23 — 73
Ida Baker (43): Devin Hanley 24, Navard Barnes 10, Palacios 3, Calderon 3, Cuttino 3. Totals: 15(11) 2-4 43.
Port Charlotte (73): Sean Price 22, Shemar Fleurissant 17, Morris 8, Perez-Dunn 7, E. Johnson 5, Perry 4, Romero 3, Chamber 3, Gainey 2, Battle 1, W. Johnson 1. Totals: 22(7) 22-38 73.