Nature Coast Christmas Tournament semifinals set
BROOKSVILLE – Nature Coast prides itself on bringing in the cream of the crop from around the nation to give the Sharks and other area teams a real test in the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament.
The Sharks faced one of those challenges on Thursday night in the semifinals of their bracket, surviving with a 58-52 victory over Lowndes (Ga.).
The Vikings (11-2) are a physical team, and Nature Coast (13-0) was up to the task. The contest was tight throughout, but the Sharks outlasted Lowndes in large part due to the play of their frontcourt, Kaine McColley and Jordan Baxter.
McColley (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) found himself in a duel offensively with Vikings guard John Slater (25 points, five rebounds, two steals). Baxter (13 points, five rebounds, two steals, one block) controlled the defensive end with his wingspan down low.
“Give Lowndes credit for being physical and athletic,” Nature Coast coach David Picarsik said. “They closed the gaps quicker than we’re used to.”
Behind for most of the game, Alonso had some big shots from the sophomore tandem of Christian De Leon and Kamalii Findlay to surge back for a 42-39 victory over Archer (Ga.) in the Bracket A semifinals.
The Ravens (7-4) were down four points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation when Findlay knocked down a contested 3-pointer from the wing, cutting the deficit to only one.
De Leon, who served as the spark plug for Alonso throughout followed up with a drive and reverse lay-in on the next possession, giving the Ravens their first lead since the first half. A rebound and some free throws from De Leon gave his team a three-point lead. With only seconds left, the Tigers (6-8) attempted an off-balance 3 from the corner, but it was no good.
Alonso will now advance to face host Nature Coast in the Bracket A Championship.
In Bracket B, Fletcher topped last year’s tournament runnerup, Shaker Heights (Ohio), 75-65.
The Senators (5-8), who play out of Neptune Beach in the Jacksonville area, set a fast pace early, and eventually seemed to run Shaker Heights (3-5) down. The difference maker for Fletcher was power forward Tyron Bond (22 points).
Moving on to face the Senators in the Bracket B Championship will be Countryside, who survived major foul trouble to overcome Armwood, 77-53.
Both Cougars standouts, C.J. Williams (seven points, nine assists) and Tyler Witz (18 points), played limited minutes due to picking up quick fouls in the first half. Picking up the slack for Countryside (8-4) was freshman Christian Shaneyfelt. The young swingman, who came in averaging 7.4 points per game, went off for 21 points, seven boards and three assists in the win over the Hawks (4-7).
Alonso 61, Hernando 43
Archer (GA) 69, East Bay 29
Lowndes (GA) 62, George Jenkins 48
Countryside 52, Roswell (GA) 39
Shaker Heights (OH) 71, Zephyrhills 60
Nature Coast 61, Land O’Lakes 35
Fletcher 68, Gaither 37
Armwood 75, Friendship (DC) 59
East Bay 70, Hernando 47
George Jenkins 47, Land O’Lakes 46
Gaither 60, Zephyrhills 55
Roswell (GA) 65, Friendship (DC) 27
Alonso 42, Archer (GA) 39
Nature Coast 58, Lowndes (GA) 52
Fletcher 75, Shaker Heights (OH) 65
Countryside 77, Armwood 53
Hernando v. Land O’Lakes, 9:30 a.m.
Zephyrhills v. Friendship (DC), 11 a.m.
East Bay v. George Jenkins, 12:30 p.m.
Gaither v. Roswell (GA), 2 p.m.
Lowndes (GA) v. Archer (GA), 3:30 p.m.
Shaker Heights (OH) v. Armwood, 5 p.m.
Alonso v. Nature Coast, 6:30 p.m.
Fletcher v. Countryside, 8 p.m.