By Josh Grant, Sun Correspondent
PORT CHARLOTTE — Port Charlotte High School senior guard Sean Price has grabbed most of the headlines this season, and deservedly so, as he led the area in scoring and is the unquestioned leader of the district champion Pirates.
But on Thursday night in the 7A-3 regional quarterfinals against Boca Ciega, Price tried everything in his power to put his team on his back, but it just wasn’t his night.
Luckily for Price and head coach Bill Specht, sophomore guard Shemar Fleurissant had no problem playing Robin to Price’s Batman, as Fleurissant dropped a game-high 22 points to send Port Charlotte to the regional semifinals with a 52-46 win.
“All (Fleurissant) has done all year is stayed even keel,” Specht said. “He doesn’t get too high or too low, he guards the best player from the other team and still hits for 22 points.”
“That’s what you need at this time of year. If someone’s not getting it done, someone else has to step up.”
The Pirates’ offense struggled from the get-go, trailing 6-1 with three minutes gone.
That’s when Fleurissant started his assault.
On the next two possessions after defensive stops, Fleurissant converted two layups, drawing hard fouls on each.
Fleurissant converted 1-of-2 free throws, tying the game at six.
After Fleurissant’s baskets, Price converted two straight of his own to cap off a 9-0 run for the Pirates, giving them a 10-6 lead after one quarter of play.
The quick, offensive turnover gave Port Charlotte a lead that it would never relinquish despite the pedestrian offense.
“I don’t think we played very well offensively, all night,” Specht said. “When your best scorer is struggling then the team is obviously going to struggle.”
Price finished with 16 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the floor and 4-of-10 from the free-throw line; a number that has to improve if Port Charlotte wants to keep this momentum going forward.
“(Price) starts off missing a couple of shots, a couple of free throws and starts pressing too much,” Specht said. “He has to learn to trust his teammates.”
“We have a lot of good basketball players on this team, so he has to let the game come to him and start trusting his teammates more.”
Price capped off the double-double with 12 rebounds while anchoring a solid defensive effort that, despite giving up 10 three-pointers, held Boca Ciega to just 6-of-22 from the field inside the three-point line.
“I’ve said it all year, our defense has to win it for us,” Specht said. “We’re going to have nights where we don’t score.”
“This time of year, you’re going to play teams that are very athletic and get after it defensively, so we have to hold our defense like it was tonight.”
Port Charlotte is the only remaining area team to survive in the regional playoffs, and will host Largo on Tuesday night in the regional semifinals.
“(Largo) is more athletic, bigger and stronger than Boca Ciega,” Specht said. “We need to limit turnovers and grab offensive rebounds.”
“Do that, and you’ll give yourself a chance to win in the playoffs.”
PORT CHARLOTTE 52, BOCA CIEGA 46
Boca Ciega 6 5 15 20 — 46
Port Charlotte 10 8 12 22 — 52
Boca Ciega (46): Dakota Moore 13, Trevor Carrier 13, Radosevich 7, Davis 4, Larkins 4, Carter 3, Green 2. Totals: 16(10) 5-6 46.
Port Charlotte (52): Shemar Fleurissant 22, Sean Price 16, Perry 7, Morris 6, Johnson 1. Totals: 18(2) 16-27 52.