Boys basketball: Nature Coast 55, Mitchell 53
TRINITY – Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik did not put together the schedule with the intent of going undefeated. He had games against worthy competition, including several out-of-state teams the Sharks had at their own tournament in December.
But the wins kept coming. The streak grew.
With three games left, Nature Coast was on the verge of recording its first undefeated regular season. The biggest obstacle came Thursday against Mitchell, a team that had rebounded from some midseason struggles to win six straight.
It was the kind of test the Sharks needed. Down by 14 early in the third quarter, Nature Coast rallied to tie the score on Austin Rivera’s 3-pointer in the final minute. Kaine McColley won it by hitting two of three free throws with 2.9 seconds left to pull out a 55-53 victory that kept the Sharks’ perfect season intact.
“Coming into this season, we wanted to be tested at the end of the season,” Pisarcik said. “We knew Mitchell had a great coaching staff and a good team. They were a perfect team for us play right before the start of districts.
“A lot of things happened that you can’t prepare for. There was some adversity. I wanted to focus and learn how to handle it before we got into the tournament.”
Early on, the shots were not falling for Nature Coast (22-0). By halftime, the Sharks trailed 31-23.
The Mustangs (16-5) did not let up. Their momentum carried over from the half as they went up 47-33 midway through the third quarter.
That is when McColley started to take over. Instead of settling for outside shots, the 6-foot-5 guard started driving to the basket. When he was not making layups, he was getting fouled and going to the line.
“Kaine is a pretty smart player so I let him feel the game out,” Pisarcik said. “But there was one point in the second half where he had a lane to drive and he got it. After that, I told him that jump shots were not going to win this game.
“I’m proud of him. He took over and made some big shots. That’s what we want out of him in this situation and he was ready for it.”
After Rivera hit his tying 3-pointer, Nature Coast forced an errant shot to get the ball back. McColley, who led all scorers with 21 points, was fouled and went to the line for three shots. He missed his first before hitting the next two.
“I just had to focus,” McColley said. “I know I can make free throws. I just had to pretend like it was practice.”
It was a tough loss for Mitchell, which had grown accustomed to pulling out close games during its recent streak. Alec Sherman led the Mustangs with 15 points.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Mitchell coach Jared St. Charles said. “They played hard and got after it. I just think down the stretch our shot selection wasn’t the best.”
Nature Coast’s last two games – Friday against Hudson and Jan. 31 against rival Springstead – are two more solid tests from programs with winning records. If the Sharks can win, they can remain flawless.
“The undefeated season matters but what means more is winning the district and advancing in the playoffs,” Pisarcik said. “That’s the bigger picture for us.”