If and when North Port High School meets Fort Myers in the playoffs, Bobcats coach Travis Slanger will probably make an extra note in his scouting report of the Green Wave.
Don’t let Mark Matthews out of your sight. Ever.
Matthews scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, lifting Fort Myers over North Port 61-58 at the Wally Keller Classic on Saturday. He made his last five shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers.
“He’s the player we knew was going to do it for them,” Slanger said. “He’s a nice player — the guy in the scouting report we knew we needed to key on. Everything goes through him.”
Trailing 43-38 entering the fourth quarter, Matthews personally led the Green Wave on a 16-8 run that let them seize control for good. He hit his first 3-pointer of the game at 6:38 of the fourth from the left wing and later hit 3s on consecutive trips down the floor to tie, then take the lead with 3:43 left.
He hit two of six shots from the floor in the first three quarters.
“Mentally and physically, you’re just telling your body to push through it,” Matthews said. “As a scorer, you’ve got to keep shooting the ball. If it falls, it falls. If it doesn’t, you run the next play.”
Malek Barber scored 16 points to lead North Port (17-4), while Justyn Miller added 14.
Jamar Stewart scored 20 points for the Green Wave (12-8), much of it early.
Slanger said rebounds were a problem in the contest. Even though North Port finished with an overall rebounding edge, its inability to get them in key moments cost the Bobcats.
“They outworked us on the boards,” said Barber, who also led North Port with eight rebounds. “That was one of our concerns coming into the game.”
Foul shots could have been just as much of a concern as the Bobcats went to the line 10 times, making six. But the Green Wave hit 23 of 30.
Free throws by James Brunson in the final minute pushed Fort Myers’ edge to 59-55, but Miller drained a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one with 17 seconds remaining.
Dion White hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to three, leading to one final North Port possession. Miller missed a deep 3-pointer and Vic Sinopoli’s desperation try from the corner was blocked out of bounds.
Sinopoli couldn’t get the shot off before the buzzer on the inbounds.
Barber said it was the loss to a possible postseason opponent could pay dividends.
“It’s good now that we got a look at them because before we had no idea what they were going to bring to the table,” the junior said of Fort Myers. “Now we have an understanding of what we’re going to see later on.”