BROOKSVILLE — One month ago, Pasco handled Nature Coast pretty easily in Dade City. And after beginning Tuesday night’s rematch on a 7-1 run, it looked like not much had changed.
The Pirates found out just how much has changed in the past five weeks when a quick 10-1 run by the Sharks turned into a 55-40 victory. Nature Coast clinched the top seed in Class 5A, District 7.
“I think we’ve grown up a little bit (since early in the season),” Nature Coast coach Emily Gore said. “I feel like we’re peaking at the right time and still improving.”
Pasco (13-8, 8-2) struggled to contain the interior play of Nature Coast (16-3, 10-1). Rita Jarque scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, but the real strength of her performance came in what she forced out of opposing center Ashley Webster.
“I keyed in on (Webster), and I think I did a good job of keeping her out of the game,” Jarque said. “Before every game, I’m always a little nervous. But when I have a person I am challenged by, I get more motivated. The challenge helps.”
After Webster scored 11 points and came down with seven boards in the first game between the teams, foul trouble limited her to only four points and four rebounds this time around, a far cry from her double-double average (11 points, 12 rebounds).
Pasco’s Brianca Roberts, who averages 18 points per game, was held to only 10 going into the final two minutes, when Gore pulled her starters. Roberts finished with 16.
“We really talked up the importance of playing Pasco the first time,” Gore said. “This time we didn’t do that. We just focused on the matchup, and the girls did a great job.”
Cousins Mirandas and Fatima Jones did their fair share of damage on both ends. Mirandas, who fouled out after being whistled for a technical foul in the fourth quarter, led the Sharks with 12 points and six assists. Fatima, finally at 100 percent after dealing with a concussion sustained three weeks ago, put up four points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“At the end of the game, they were slapping our hands and saying ‘See you at Pasco,’ ” Jarque said. “Since we’re the top dogs now, we know they’ll be gunning for us.”