By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Throw seeding and the regular season right out the window.
Third-seeded Port Charlotte paid no attention to the fact that No. 1 Charlotte had defeated it twice already this year, but in the one game that mattered most, the Pirates flipped the script.
Winning their fourth straight District 7A-10 championship, Port Charlotte beat Charlotte 52-46 in a game in which the Tarpons led much of the contest.
“We’ve had a lot of successful teams here recently, and even though there are a lot of sophomores on the team, they didn’t want to be any different than the teams that have come through. I’m so proud of these guys,” Pirates coach Bill Specht said.
Port Charlotte (23-3) will host a regional quarterfinal game on Thursday. Charlotte (15-12) will travel to the winner of the District 7A-9 game.
The Pirates held a 47-46 lead with 2:30 left in the game when they began to drain the clock. Charlotte was forced to foul, which found Tyler Perry at the line with the same score and 65 seconds left in the game.
Perry missed that free throw, which gave the Tarpons an opportunity to take a late lead. Charlotte, unable to get a quality chance, eventually gave the ball away, and a Klayton Morris layup put his team up 49-46.
“We just didn’t get the breaks at the end. That’s what it is. This game comes down to getting breaks, and we didn’t get the breaks,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said.
Morris was clutch all night, sinking five 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 22 points.
Sean Price scored 14 points and added eight rebounds. Wills Batts had a team-best 14 points and six rebounds for Charlotte.
The Pirates grabbed the lead for good at 43-41 with 6:40 left on a Morris trey. The Tarpons led 32-26 at halftime, but were up by just one point entering the final quarter.
“Klayton was on, and we needed that,” Specht said. “He has a way of hitting big shots in district championship games, and that’s just a lot of heart and desire. He didn’t want to lose.”
PORT CHARLOTTE 52, CHARLOTTE 46
Port Charlotte 16 10 14 12 — 52: Klayton Morris 22, Sean Price 14, Fleurissant 8, Cleveland 5, Perry 3. Totals: 19 (8) 6-10.
Charlotte 13 19 9 5 — 46: Will Batts 14, Haas 9, Johnson 6, Grant 5, Bokon 5, Reaves 3, Simon 2, Ingle 2. Totals: 17 (5) 7-10.