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Charlotte swamps Cape to claim district basketball crown

February 12, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Charlotte High School Fightin' Tarpons (19-6) proved to be too much to handle last Friday night, as the school was able to raise a girls basketball district championship for the first time since 2003 with a 53-37 defeat of Cape Coral (20-8).

Charlotte got things rolling with an 11-2 run out of the gate an never looked back, as the Fightin' Tarpons would never trail over four quarters.

"The girls worked hard man, we've come up short for the last two years, so we knew coming into this, just what it takes. They kind of got sick and tired of being second place, so, it's great for everybody, great for the school, great for these girls," said Charlotte head coach Matthew Stephenson.

From tip-off to final buzzer, the Tarpons seemed to be in the drivers seat as their crisp offense and ball control from freshman point guard Aryana Hicks provided minimal reasons to panic on the offensive end of the floor.

The unsuspecting scoring touch of senior center Lauren Jackson, who tallied a career-high 21 points and added four rebounds, was a pleasant surprise. Many of her buckets came down low on the block, set up by her teammates driving to the rim and drawing the Cape defense.

"What happens - and we've said this all along, and I get on her about it all of the time - she thinks that her offense has to bring it, but we have to continue to just be patient and trust her defensively. Not only did she have a nice night offensively, defensively she did what she's supposed to do with a lot of blocks, rebounds - that stuff carries us, she's a big focal point for us on defense and it really helps us shut down teams and do what we're supposed to do on the other end of the court. We were able to reward her tonight, and that's great for her," said Stephenson.

Th Cape did its best to crawl and fight its way back into the game, but could never go on that run to bring it down to a single-possession score.

"That was the biggest thing - allowing Vanessa (Vicente), allowing Bella (Desjardins) to get those shots off, we know that they feed off of hitting those threes, they've been that team forever," said Seahawks' head coach Brian Cruz.

"I'm not sure," he said of why the team has seemed to come out flat their last two contests. "Maybe we're just not hitting the shots we usually hit, so, we lose that confidence."

The Fightin' Tarpons kept Cape's top shot maker, Crystal Tisme, scoreless throughout the game - although sophomore guard/forward Sierra Moore was there to pick up the slack offensively.

Moore finished with 21 points of her own, adding three rebounds, an assist and a steal.

"We just need to stay positive and get back at it next game," said Moore. "I think we just kind of came out flat, we need to keep the fire all game and every game, and we'll be fine. We've had a lot of challenges, and that was the point of these tough games - is to have challenges, and it's just preparing us for the playoffs."

After a Seahawks' surge to cut its defect to 7 in the third quarter, the Fightin' Tarpons regained control of the contest and cemented their names on the 7A District-10 Championship trophy.

"They're great, they're the whole reason I scored like I did tonight. They throw amazing passes, they're really patient with the ball, they know what to do, great timing, all of that," Jackson said of her efforts.

"My team needed me to step up and handle the ball at the end. We needed to slow it down, we were up, so we calmed it down and got some good buckets," said Hicks, who finished with 11 points, five assists and four steals. "I just calm down. I've played a lot of basketball over the years, and it's shaped me. When I was little I had this Xbox game, and I dribbled to it to beats of music, and I've just loved dribbling ever since. It means a lot (to bring a district title to Charlotte). Means we can wipe the dust off of that banner now."

Both teams will head to the 2019 FHSAA Girls Basketball State Championship Tournament, Cape will take on Clearwater (19-1) Thursday at 7 p.m.

"Our seasons still going, its' basically just getting started," said Cruz. "We're still looking to get better and work hard."

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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