In a season the Island Coast High School girls basketball team hopes will culminate in its first ever state playoff appearance, the Gators got a first-hand look Wednesday at the level of play necessary to achieve that goal.
Visiting Port Charlotte built an early double-digit lead and never trailed, defeating Island Coast 46-27 in the District 6A-11 opener for both teams.
"We found out where the district bar is set," Gators coach Jerry Ellis said of the Pirates (7-2, 1-0), who have qualified for the postseason three consecutive years and are the early front-runners to win the 6A-11 title. "I'm glad they were our first district opponent because it showed us where we are and where we need to be in January."
Island Coast (4-4, 0-1) fell behind 11-0 to start the game and trailed 16-3 after the first quarter, struggling with turnovers and 6-foot-2 Port Charlotte center Courtney Robertson.
The Gators managed to cut their deficit to five points late in the second quarter on two free throws by junior guard Leanne Ellis. But Robertson's 3-point play and a long 3-pointer by guard Julie Stewart put the Pirates up 26-15 at the half. Island Coast never got any closer than that the rest of the way.
Robertson scored a game-high 16 points for Port Charlotte, while Stewart added eight. Ellis led the Gators with 13 points while junior guard Jennifer Fasano chipped in with 11.
"We let that first quarter get away from us," Jerry Ellis said. "We didn't have the discipline that makes us successful as a team. I'm a little disappointed but we played hard the whole way.
"They're a very good team but a few less turnovers and we can stay in a game like this."
Fort Myers 3, Lehigh 1: Jimmy Demilia, Brett Schumbacker and Kirk Williams all scored for the Green Wave. Gonzalo Contreras scored the lone goal for the Lightning.
Cypress Lake 2, Immokalee 2: No stats available.
Canterbury 67, Marco Island Academy 51 (From Tuesday): Eighth-grader Eddie Zurita led the way for the Cougars (2-2) with 21 points. Teammates Carson Burton and Carver Sorensen each scored 17.
CSN 79, Gateway Charter 29: Max Kent and Zach Rochette scored 19 points apiece to lead the way for the Seahawks (6-0).