BROOKSVILLE — No team wants to keep saying "Wait till next year," but that is routinely becoming what the Nature Coast Sharks say in their locker room at the end of the postseason.
For the second consecutive season, the Sharks were ousted in the Class 4A boys basketball region finals, this time falling 60-47 to Leesburg in front of packed gymnasium on their own campus Saturday evening.
Last season, Nature Coast fell in this round on the road to Orlando Oak Ridge, an eventual state finalist.
"The disappointment level is still the same when your season ends," Nature Coast coach David Pisarcik said, "but we feel we really had a shot to win this game."
Every player on the Sharks (27-4) got off to a sluggish start with the exception of star Tyler Bergantino. The 6-foot-9 center scored or assisted on each of the team's first 15 points, including scoring all of Nature Coast's six first-quarter points.
Leesburg's pressure defense resulted in easy layups and a 15-6 lead for the Yellow Jackets (26-4), while Nature Coast's four other starters got open jumpers and missed the opportunities.
The pace slowed to Nature Coast's liking in the second quarter when guards Blake Lowman and Donovan Ingram were able to feed Bergantino (18 points, eight rebounds, eight blocks, three assists) steadily. The Sharks outscored Leesburg 17-6 in the quarter to lead 23-21 at the half.
But Leesburg coach Marcel Thomas made adjustments for the second half and things changed once again. While adding more pressure on the Sharks guards, he also switched his double team on Bergantino from possession to possession, confusing the Nature Coast offense at times.
"It just shows how important every possession is," Pisarcik said. "We didn't execute. We missed some easy ones."
Leesburg forced 14 turnovers, many leading to fastbreak points.
Once the Sharks were forced to foul, the Yellow Jackets made them pay. Teron Wallace (12 points) went to the line 10 times and made nine free throws to ice his team's trip to Lakeland for the state semifinals.