BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast stacked the field of its home tournament this weekend in hopes gaining valuable experience against some solid programs, but the Sharks still planned to leave the Nature Coast Christmas Invitational with the championship trophy.
Somebody forgot to tell Tarpon Springs.
The Spongers squeaked past the Sharks 53-50 on Monday to take the crown.
Scotty James (18 points, 15 rebounds) was named tournament MVP for Tarpon Springs (14-2). The junior forward averaged an event-high 16.7 rebounds over three games.
Nature Coast (12-2) had the ball with less than 10 seconds left but James blocked a 3-point attempt.
Teammate Trai Halton went for 15 points and was also named to the All-Tournament team.
“We obviously wanted to win this one,” Nature Coast coach David Pisarcik said, “but we were definitely battle-tested. None of the games we played (this weekend) were blowouts, so this will help our guys in the long run.”
Carlos Clemente, who had career highs in points for Nature Coast in his previous two games, couldn’t find the same kind of room against the Spongers. The senior guard had eight points, knocking down only one 3-pointer, after averaging 31 points in the previous two tournament games.
“(Sunday night) we talked about (guarding Clemente) quite a bit,” Tarpon Springs coach Jerry Woodka said. “If he doesn’t catch the ball, he doesn’t score. If he doesn’t score, they have a lot of problems scoring.”
Sharks guard Jordan Burkes led with 19 points, taking over while Clemente was in foul trouble and being contained.
Brooks-DeBartolo got past Orlando Jones 65-61 for third place.
The Phoenix (10-4) got a well-rounded effort with four different players in double figures. Jarred Anderson, also named all-tournament, led with 19 points and six steals, while Jio Molina (13 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) had his third straight double double. The senior center averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the event.
Brooks-DeBartolo met a depleted Tigers squad. Jones (7-9) dismissed six players over the weekend because of conduct detrimental to the program.
Steinbrenner (5-10) defeated Springstead (9-5) for fifth place, 79-66, and in the seventh-place game Jefferson (14-5) won 85-24 over Weeki Wachee (0-13).