BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast needed all of three minutes to show off the size, speed and athleticism that would carry it to an easy 68-52 playoff victory over Wesley Chapel on Thursday.
A quick start and steady finish sends the Sharks into the second round of the Class 5A playoffs, where they will meet Hudson. Last year, the Sharks beat the Cobras in the playoffs 62-56.
The fans lingering after the win cheered the news of Hudson’s victory, high-fiving and happy not to face Eustis — the only team to beat Nature Coast — a third time.
But if Nature Coast can play the way it did Thursday, it won’t matter who is in its way. With Tyler Bergantino having his way in the paint, the Sharks scored the first eight points and opened up a 26-6 lead early in the second quarter.
“We came out with a lot of focus,” said Bergantino, who had 32 points and 15 rebounds. “Then we struggled with turnovers a little. …”
But by then it didn’t matter.
The Sharks (27-1) were able to hold Erik Thomas, Wesley Chapel’s leading scorer at 22 points per game, to one free throw in the first half.
Thomas ended up with 17 points and 10 rebounds but couldn’t get the Wildcats (24-5) any closer than 14 points.
“It was tough, he’s a big guy,” the 6-foot-4 Thomas said of his matchup with Bergantino, a 6-9 center who will play for the University of Massachusetts next season. “I just had to keep fighting with him. I had to keep playing hard.”
Wesley Chapel senior Sasha Mentor scored 14.
Nature Coast didn’t have any other players in double figures, with Blake Lowman and Donovan Ingram each scoring eight.