By Chuck Ballaro, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Port Charlotte’s boys basketball team had something to play for far beyond a plastic trophy on Sunday. They were playing for a friend.
Gody Marcelin, 15, who played on the high school football and basketball teams, drowned off Boca Grande on Saturday evening, leaving everybody with heavy hearts.
But instead of allowing their grief to overwhelm them, the Pirates used the game as an escape and motivation as they dominated the second half to defeat the West Valley Warriors from Arizona 64-57 in the championship of the Port Charlotte Shootout at Port Charlotte High School.
It was a long day for the Pirates. They had to hang on in the semifinal game against DeSoto County in the late morning before coming out a few hours later for the title contest.
The emotions poured out after the game with several players sobbing heavily for their friend and teammate as they left the coach’s office.
There was never any thought of pulling out of the tournament by any of the players after learning the news. They knew they had a job to do — win it for Gody.
For assistant coach Sean Bailey, who had coached Gody since the seventh grade, it was equally as tough.
“It’s been hard for these guys because they’ve been friends a long time, and he was a great kid,” Bailey said. “We dedicated it to him and they pulled together and won it for him.”
Bailey said he was amazed by how the team was able to keep it together, even if the Pirates clearly were not themselves. They trailed for much of the first half against the traveling team from the desert Southwest.
However, Tyler Perry started hitting his 3-point attempts along with Bryce Cleveland and the Pirates were able to forge a 29-29 tie at halftime.
“We were motivated. We have a lot of trust in our players. We got help from our bench and I think it’ll get better as the season goes on,” Cleveland said.
In the second half, Shemar Fleurissant caught fire scoring 16 of his 20 points, highlighted by a pair of three-point plays that helped the Pirates take the lead for good.
West Valley was able to pull to within 53-51 with under four minutes left, but the Pirates defense made key stops and hit enough free throws to ice the game.
“I’m proud of them pulling together for a teammate. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling right now. But they pulled it together and won for Gody,” Bailey said.
The Pirates put four players in double figures. Cleveland, who wasn’t much of a factor against DeSoto, came back strong in the finals with 16 points. Perry had 14 and Brandon Gailey had 10.
Cleveland said there was no thought of pulling out of the tournament, but rather to play in his memory.
“(Gody) always cheered people up when they were down and to see him go down the way he did, the best we can do was come out and win games for him,” Cleveland said. “As soon as we learned, we felt we had to play for him.”
Zakie Shelton led all scorers with 21 points for the Warriors, while Christiano Gomes and Carlos Montiller each had 14.
PORT CHARLOTTE 64, WEST VALLEY 57
West Valley 29 28 – 57: Zakie Shelton 21, Carlos Montiller 14, Christiano Gomes 14, Lattrey Robinson 4, Lattrell Robinson 2, Fila 2. Totals: 24 (7) 2-3.
Port Charlotte 29 35 – 64: Shemar Fleurissant 20, Bryce Cleveland 16, Tyler Perry 14, Brandon Gainey 10, Gavin Carr 4. Totals: 23 (8) 10-21.