The 25-point state semifinal defeat wasn’t even 30 minutes behind him when Nature Coast senior Blake Lowman began to move on.
He wouldn’t dwell on the 74-49 Class 5A loss to Jacksonville Terry Parker on Thursday night. He preferred to think about the long journey that he and the Sharks took to Lakeland and the memories he’ll carry with him forever.
“It hurts real bad right now,” Lowman said, “but I think when we’re old men out on the golf course, we’ll really enjoy telling our kids and whatnot that we had a good run at it.”
This run ended just like its three previous ones — in disappointment. Parker had too much speed and athleticism, just like Leesburg in last year’s region final and Orlando Oak Ridge in the elite eight before that.
But this one ended with a pep rally, a 27-2 record, the county’s second trip to state and the big stage of the Lakeland Center.
“In the past we were trying to fight for the spotlight,” senior center Tyler Bergantino said. “Now it’s like the spotlight couldn’t get off of us.”
The spotlights will continue to shine on Bergantino and Lowman. Bergantino has signed with UMass, and Lowman is headed to Florida Southern.
But what happens to the spotlight at Nature Coast without its stars and seven seniors?
“Obviously losing Blake and Tyler, the foundation of what we’ve had for the last three or four years, it’s tough,” coach David Pisarcik said. “In high school basketball, you’ve got a good post and a smart point guard that can shoot and pass, you’re halfway there.”
Now the Sharks must start over, without Lowman, without Bergantino and without the team’s nucleus.
Six NCT players averaged at least five points per game. Only sophomore forward Rohan Blackwood will be back next season. Of the eight regulars in Pisarcik’s rotation, six were seniors. The others were Blackwood and backup point guard Victor Davila.
After Thursday’s loss, Pisarcik wasn’t ready to think about next season. He wanted to focus on the positives of this winter and a senior class that rebounded from two disappointing region final losses to advance to state, at long last.
“This team goes down as arguably the best team in Hernando County,” Pisarcik said. “That’s something that I’m proud to be a part of. …I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.