BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast faced Tarpon Springs just once in the regular season, and the Sharks lost. In the region semifinals, they’ll have their chance for revenge.
Nature Coast defeated Gulf 56-43 in the first round of the Class 5A tournament. The Sharks face the Spongers, who defeated Hernando, on Tuesday.
“We’ve been working hard all year,” NCT coach David Pisarcik said. “Our season starts at the playoffs.”
He said his seniors — Rohan Blackwood, Jordan Burkes, Carlos Clemente, Cody Bergantino and Darius Jones — stepped up to seal the win.
The Bucs kept the first quarter tight, ending it behind 11-10, and nearly caught up after the half. The Sharks finally pulled away for good in the last minutes of the third quarter.
“We thought we’d wear them down a little,” Pisarcik said.
A major factor in the Sharks’ success was Clemente’s free-throw shooting, Pisarcik added. Clemente had 12 opportunities to score from the line and made good on 10 of them.
Though the first quarter was tight, the Sharks pulled ahead in the second, ending the half with a five-point lead. James Grubb sank a layup three minutes into the third quarter, allowing Gulf to draw within two points.
NCT scored on the next play, but Grubb was ready with the follow-up. He hit a shot from under the rim and sank a free throw, pulling the Bucs within one point of a tie with a minute and a half left.
Blackwood fired back across the court to help NCT take back the lead. His first shot within the last minute rolled over the rim to pull the Sharks ahead 32-29.
He charged back again. On the next play he shot, rebounded and shot again, and Jones rebounded to sink another layup. The Sharks were ahead 36-29 going into the fourth.
Clemente led the night in scoring, with 20 points. Bergantino added another 11 for the Sharks. Grubb led Gulf’s attack with 14 points. Andre Wilson had 13.