NEW PORT RICHEY — Mike Bergantino's thumbs danced across his phone as quickly as a proud father can text message.
He related Nature Coast's huge lead, how rough the game had turned and how dominant his son had been on his old high school basketball court.
If Tyler Bergantino looked a little too comfortable Tuesday in a 76-58 win at Ridgewood, it's because somewhere deep inside he was on familiar ground. His father was a 1990 Ridgewood alumnus. Mike pointed to the spot on Anders Court where he hit the school's first 3-pointer. He shook hands with a Ridgewood fan, who said, "Some of us think you're sitting on the wrong side."
Tyler set the tone with a 13 of his 17 points in the first half. He also finished with 13 rebounds and five blocks.
"Honestly, Bergantino tonight was better than I've ever seen him," Ridgewood coach Gary Anders said. "…I just can't say enough about Tyler. He was a big-timer tonight."
The game grew much bigger than the Bergantinos. With a huge contingent on hand, including many faces from days gone by, the spirit of Nature Coast was a driving force behind the best team in school history.
The Sharks (27-3) took a 5-4 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Nature Coast outscored the Rams 13-2 to end the first, then went on a 17-6 run in the second quarter for a 32-12 lead 1:48 before halftime.
Ridgewood cut the deficit to 13 by halftime, but another 9-0 run to begin the third ended any Ridgewood (26-3) momentum.
Nature Coast got a game-high 18 points from Adam Smith, 16 from Blake Lowman and 11 from Guan Whitsett.
"This is a breakthrough game for (Bergantino), this is a breakthrough game for Nature Coast, it's a breakthrough game for our program," Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik said. "The kids are starting to believe, the school's starting to believe."
The end for Ridgewood was crushing.
As the game got out of control a pair of technical fouls were assessed the Rams' top two players, first to Jacob Rauh followed by the ejection Charles Jones, with 4:58 left. Jones led the Rams with 13 points.
The Sharks, who extended their win streak to 16 games, ended the Rams' 26-game home win streak and 21-game unbeaten streak.
"I'm embarrassed for the scene," Anders said. "That's not my cup of tea. …I don't know if people realize it, we went undefeated four years in a row in conference, district and county.
"For these kids to be a part of that, that's good."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.