TAMPA — To the utter bewilderment of his coach, Chamberlain scoring/rebounding/assists/GPA leader Eric Storts was bypassed almost twice by local coaches this week in county and conference player of the year elections.
Does it nag at the 6-foot-3 senior? A bit, he admits, but it's beyond his control. The Chiefs' postseason destiny isn't.
In a performance as willful as it was prolific, Storts and sophomore Reggie Hart teamed for 51 points to propel the Chiefs (23-2) past a pesky Port Charlotte squad 64-51 Thursday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Storts had 17 of his 26 in the first half, when the contest still bore a grudge-match complexion and the lead changed hands 10 times.
"I don't care what anybody else says, I don't care what any other coach says, Eric Storts is the most underrated player in the county," said Chiefs coach Christopher Snyder, whose club hosts Sickles on Tuesday in the teams' fourth meeting of the season.
"He knows this is his chance, this is his team, and he's going carry them as far as he is."
Dominated on the offensive glass in the first half by 6-5 Pirates freshman Nixon Blanc (16 points), the Chiefs nonetheless ended the first half with a 9-2 run for a 31-30 halftime lead. Storts began the spurt with a traditional three-point play, followed by a short jumper.
"We talked about the Chiefs' keys to victory tonight, and No. 1 was composure," Snyder said.
Turns out, the Chiefs had it. The guests (16-11) didn't.
After fouling Hart in the backcourt with 6:26 to play in the game, Pirates guard Vinny Montoya was whistled for a technical foul. Hart, who finished 14-for-18 from the free-throw line, sank all four free throws. Chamberlain then got the ball, and David Cook drove the lane for a basket for a six-point possession to make it 49-37.
Twenty-five seconds later, Storts — averaging more than 17 points and 11 boards this season — stole a Pirates pass and went coast to coast for a left-handed dunk to essentially seal things.
"Senior year, playoffs — I'm not going to be denied," Storts said.