BROOKSVILLE — The long-awaited final in Class 4A, District 8 is a reality.
With convincing semifinal victories, Nature Coast and Wiregrass Ranch stamped their tickets to the state playoffs and tonight’s championship. The Sharks defeated Land O’Lakes 48-30, and the Bulls dispatched Citrus 84-44 Friday evening.
Wiregrass Ranch (20-7) had played a close game with the Hurricanes (13-14) the first time the teams played, so the Bulls took nothing for granted. Employing a full-court press, the second seed took full control from the first quarter on, streaking on a 16-0 run at one point in the first half.
Point guard James Tringali (eight points, seven rebounds, nine assists) led a fast-paced team effort with four Bulls scoring in double figures including Kingsley Boatene (11), Josiah Jones (10), Rico Kerney (11 points, eight rebounds, seven steals), and Tanner Carey (17 points).
“This is the most fun I’ve had in coaching,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeremy Calzone said. “Last season we had a go-to scorer in Eric Williams, but this year, we’re just happy to get it to whoever’s open.”
That chemistry has landed the Bulls in the postseason for the first time after going 1-22 when Calzone started the program five years ago.
Nature Coast (25-2) was sucked into the slowdown style that Land O’Lakes (16-10) likes to play. The Gators tried to contain Nature Coast star center Tyler Bergantino (15 points, six rebounds, two blocks) by double-teaming the 6-foot-8 big man and playing ball-control offense. The result was a slow game that trudged along, but the Sharks continued to steadily lengthen their advantage.
“We like to play those up-and-down games and control the tempo,” Nature Coast coach David Picarsik said. “It impacts us because we know every offensive possession is so critical.”
Picarsik pointed to the supporting cast as the key to how the Sharks will do moving forward.
“I thought we played well in spurts (tonight),” he said, “but we had some finishes we have to convert in the championship game and from here on out if we want to get where we need to go.”