WESLEY CHAPEL — Before Nature Coast’s Class 5A, District 7 final against Hernando on Friday, senior Rohan Blackwood had already enjoyed one of the best weeks of his life.
On Wednesday, the two-sport standout accomplished a career milestone, signing to continue his football career as a defensive lineman at USF.
But Blackwood still had one more goal to check off his list — a third straight district title for NCT’s boys basketball team.
On Friday night, he completed that mission. Blackwood scored 12 points and added 11 rebounds as the Sharks used a late surge to get past the Leopards 59-43.
The win was even sweeter for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound center, who returned to the Sharks (20-7) before the district tournament after missing most of the regular season due to personal reasons.
“I did miss a lot of time,” Blackwood said. “I missed it. I came back and the team needed me. I came here to win this thing. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Hernando (15-6) struck quickly and jumped to a 12-8 lead after a 9-3 run late in the first quarter.
It wouldn’t hold. NCT outscored the Leopards 13-6 in the second after Hernando junior Mike Jones (15 points) was forced to the bench with foul trouble to take a seven-point lead at the half.
Hernando crawled back in the third quarter, though, and tied the score at 37 with 6:20 left in the fourth.
But not much went right for the Leopards after that. Led by Jordan Burkes (21 points) and Carlos Clemente (15), who combined for six 3-pointers, the Sharks pulled away on a 14-1 run to lock up the championship.
“We always say it’s tough to be a champion,” NCT coach David Piscarik said. “These never come easy. …That’s why it’s such a nice win for us, because we did it together.”