By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — If one thing was evident on the first day of the Port Charlotte Shootout for the Port Charlotte girls, it’s that the chemistry built between forward Celia Baermann and guard Ashlyn Henderson a season ago is still going strong heading into next school year.
After splitting their first two games of the day, the Pirates defeated The Make It Count Wolfpack 50-36 in the final contest of the day thanks to Baermann’s double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds and Henderson’s 16 points, which included four 3-pointers.
The duo was only two of four Port Charlotte players to score in the game, and the Pirates will need all they can get from the two girls this season after Janae Dennard transferred to North Port this summer.
“They’re going to be key and they’re going to have to learn to be true leaders for us,” Port Charlotte coach Kevin Purcell said. “Baermann has played for me since she was a freshman and so has Ashlyn so they’ve had those moments, but they have to understand they’ll still have those moments and those younger kids will have those moments too and that’s where they become true leaders. They’re going to have to learn to do that and that’s not easy to do but they’ll do it.”
The Wolfpack, a seventh grade AAU squad from Punta Gorda, were led mostly by Aryana Hicks’s game-high 27 points. Hicks and company jumped on the Pirates early and even took a 15-4 lead before Baermann and Henderson took over.
Port Charlotte responded out of a timeout with 16 straight points, tying the game on a 3-pointer by Henderson with 6:37 left in the half before the junior hit another trey 29 seconds later to put the Pirates ahead for good. Elizabeth Joseph extended the lead to 20-15 before Hicks finally ended the Wolfpack’s long drought with a jumper.
Henderson later helped push the lead to 26-17 before Hicks scored seven straight to pull the Wolfpack back to within a point. But Henderson nailed her third triple right before the first-half buzzer to give Port Charlotte a 29-24 lead at the break.
The Wolfpack never got closer than three points in the second half as the Pirates defense tightened to hold the opponent to just 12 points after intermission. Joseph’s trey late in the second half finally put Port Charlotte up double figures, 46-34.
“We’re out of shape and it was late at night. It was the third game of the day,” Purcell said of the slow start. “We had a slow run but give that team some credit. They played well and I’ll give them all the credit in the world. We really didn’t put them away until the last few minutes. They were scrappy and you couldn’t guard (Hicks).
“They got every loose ball, we didn’t get any loose balls and we let them get everything. That’s something we can build on in the summer and then come October everything should be OK.”
Port Charlotte’s only loss on the day came in a blowout against the Arizona Wildcats in the teams’ first game of the day.
“We got demolished the first game. That other team was the real deal,” Purcell said. “I’ve done this 10 or 11 years and played some quality teams and they’re probably one of the best teams I’ve ever played, including Fort Myers on their first state championship run. They were the real deal and we’re young. I only have one senior in Baermann. We’ll see. We’re young but we’ll peak at the right time.”
PORT CHARLOTTE 50, MAKE IT COUNT 36
Make It Count 24 12 — 36: Aryana Hicks 27, Joseph 4, Jimenez 3, Roberts 2. Totals: 16(3) 1-4 36.
Port Charlotte 29 21 — 50: Celia Baermann 26, Ashlyn Henderson 16, Joseph 7, Larson 3. Totals: 21(7) 1-4 50.