ZEPHYRHILLS — His players clutched the district trophy and made silly poses for the moms and dads gripping camera phones. Memories of his final high school game 11 years ago came flooding back.
Dave Pisarcik was a senior guard for Cleveland (Ohio) Midpark and walked away as part of that program's best season in school history. The same could be said Saturday, now as a head coach after guiding Nature Coast to its first district title, dismantling top-seeded Lecanto 60-38.
In 1999, Pisarcik had given Midpark a lead with 26 seconds left before St. Ignatius won the district title on a shot with three seconds to go for the 55-54 victory. As the Sharks' head coach, he felt helpless on the bench.
"As a player I'm not as nervous because I know I can control things," Pisarcik said. "As a coach your emotions are a lot different."
There was no doubt Saturday as Nature Coast (25-3) led by as many as 24 despite the early struggles of Adam Smith and Tyler Bergantino. Lecanto (20-5) struggled to find points with no players breaking double digits.
After Bergantino was benched in the second quarter with two fouls, Smith picked up his third with 5:30 left before halftime. Role players were suddenly shoved into the spotlight, including Cory Emmerson, who tap danced to glory. He came in averaging 3.9 points and took a curtain call after scoring a season-high 11 points and a career best three 3-pointers.
"Over the summer I extended my range a little bit," Emmerson said. "I had been struggling, but I found my stroke tonight."
Also key was the spark lit by guard Guan Whitsett, who drilled back-to-back 3s to open the second half for a 10-point lead. He finished with 12 points.
And with the Sharks knocking down outside shots, Bergantino recovered inside, scoring eight of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"Cory hit those 3s and they gave us a lot of intensity," Bergantino said. "Not everything was going our way, but we battled through and the other guys stepped up."
Pisarcik, 28, hugged athletic director Kristen Peeples and shook hands with principal Toni-Ann Noyes. He clearly relished this title after remembering the moment that had escaped him so many years ago.
"I do think about it comparing playing to this (coaching)," Pisarcik said. "It's a lot different because right now I'm trying to win for them."