By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
LARGO — Charlotte High School was right in it until the very end, but turnovers were its Achilles heel in its second straight loss to Largo in the regional quarterfinals.
Led by Bobby Roundtree’s 17 points, 12 rebounds — 10 offensive — and four steals, the Packers rallied from nine down to defeat the Tarpons 60-52. Largo will travel to Port Charlotte for a Region 7A-3 semifinal matchup on Tuesday, the second year in a row the teams will meet up in round two.
Cassius Tomlinson also provided plenty of offense in the lane for the Packers (18-7) with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. The Tarpons (14-13) led 37-28 midway through the second quarter but slowly saw their lead trimmed in the second half, due in large part to 16 turnovers in the final 16 minutes.
An 11-0 Largo run tied the game at 39 in the final minute of the third quarter before a Will Batts put-back put Charlotte back up by two after 24 minutes. But the Packers outscored the Tarpons 21-11 in the fourth quarter and ended the game on a 14-4 run to pull away late.
“All you can ask for is to be in the game. We were in the game. We had an opportunity down one late in the game on the road and that’s all you can ask for,” Charlotte coach Tom Massolio said.
Ahmad Johnson recorded a double-double for Charlotte, scoring a game-high 21 points to go along with 13 rebounds. His 3-pointer in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter gave his team a 44-39 lead before Largo put together its backbreaking run.
A put-back by Roundtree tied the game at 48 with 5:20 remaining before a free throw Nirobi Peeler gave Largo the lead for good at 49-48 with 4:08 to go. Two more free throws by Isaiah Bellamy put the Packers up by three, but Johnson answered with a driving layup to pull Charlotte back within a point with 2:05 to play.
The Tarpons then had a chance to take the lead but Peeler came away with a steal and sent the ball up the floor to Zhahidi Robinson for an easy layup and a 53-50 lead. Robinson finished with nine points.
Charlotte appeared to tie the game on its next possession when Batts hit a long jumper, but the officials ruled that his foot was on the line. That was it for the Tarpons as they turned the ball over twice in the final minute while struggling to get any good looks at the basket.
“We didn’t handle the ball very well there at the end, but we were right in it,” Massolio said. “We got a shot, they called it a two but I thought it was a three. That was questionable so things went their way down the stretch. The ball bounced their way.”
The ball was bouncing Largo’s way in the first quarter as it built a 20-12 lead. The game starting looking eerily similar to last year’s regional quarterfinal, but the Tarpons outscored the Packers 18-6 in the second quarter to take a 30-26 lead into halftime.
That lead could have been larger, but Charlotte went just 6-for-11 from the charity stripe in the first half.
“I thought we missed some free throws in the first. I thought we were right with them but we missed some free throws. We kept moving the ball, doing a good job and Ahmad got going there. Our seniors did a really good job of leading us tonight. You tip your hat to Largo. They played a better game than us,” Massolio said.
Batts finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Kenny Scribner finished with six points on two 3-pointers. Trevor Bokon had six assist and five rebounds to go along with his three points.
LARGO 60, CHARLOTTE 52
Charlotte 12 18 11 11 — 52
Largo 20 6 13 21 — 60
Charlotte (52): Ahmad Johnson 21, Batts 7, Scribner 6, Haas 4, Reaves 4, Bokon 3, Grant 3, Ingle 3, Simon 1. Totals: 19(4) 10-15 52.
Largo (60): Bobby Roundtree 17, Cassius Tomlinson 12, Robinson 9, Cooney 6, Bellamy 5, Peeler 5, Lockett 4, Yeldon 2. Totals: 24(2) 10-19 60.