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Boys basketball: Nature Coast, Tarpon Springs reach tourney final

BROOKSVILLE — It took one of the largest runs in school history, but Nature Coast booked a spot in its own holiday tournament championship game.

The Sharks were outplayed for three of the four quarters by Orlando Jones, but a 27-point second-quarter run vaulted Nature Coast to an 83-77 semifinal victory Saturday at the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament. The Sharks will play Tarpon Springs in the final at 7 p.m. Monday.

"Our guards really took over the game," Nature Coast coach David Picarsik said. "It just gave us some momentum when we needed it."

Down 25-20 after the first quarter, Nature Coast (12-1) was having trouble with the pressure from the Tigers (7-8).

Everything changed once the ball was inbounded to start the second quarter as the Sharks mounted a 27-0 run behind the play of guard Carlos Clemente. One day after setting a career-high with 30 points, Clemente hit seven 3-pointers and finished with 32 points. He missed only one attempt from beyond the arc, a desperation full-court heave as the half expired.

"I was confident in my team and confident in my shooting," said Clemente, who also finished with five assists. "I just stay focused."

Though Jones was down 53-31, the Tigers never surrendered, slicing seven points off the lead in the third and another nine in the fourth.

For the second straight game, Cody Bergantino (12 points, 11 rebounds) registered a double double for the Sharks, and Joey Dudek (14 points, six rebounds) and Jordan Burkes (16 points, five rebounds) added plenty of scoring as well.

In the other semifinal, Tarpon Springs didn't start fast but after a third-quarter outburst of 28 points, the Spongers (13-2) pulled away for a 65-53 victory over Brooks-DeBartolo (9-4).

"Our experience carried over a little bit with most of our kids playing two or three years on the varsity," Tarpon Springs coach Jerry Woodka said. "We hit some big free throws down the stretch."

The Spongers had difficulty getting leading scorer Scotty James going as Phoenix coach Brian Reeves employed a box-and-one defense against the standout forward. Though James couldn't break free offensively, he had 17 rebounds in the first half.

Adjustments at the half allowed Spongers point guard Trai Halton to take control of the ball. He also hit five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points, four assists and four steals. James started to get better looks and ended up with 11 points and 20 rebounds.

In consolation action, Springstead beat Jefferson 78-71 in overtime. Springstead (9-4) got a game-high 30 points from Devante Valentin, and teammate Aaron Waddy chipped in 29 points and 10 rebounds. The Dragons (13-5) tied the game with 3 at the end of regulation but couldn't keep the momentum in the extra period.

The Eagles will meet Steinbrenner (4-10) in the fifth-place game after the Warriors beat Weeki Wachee 76-33.

Steinbrenner standout Keshawn Ingram, who scored a tournament-high 35 in the opener against the Sharks, scored 19 against the Hornets (0-12) despite not playing in the fourth.

Tampa Prep tops Shorecrest for title

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Prep's Juwan Durham and Shorecrest's Jay Joyer each starred during the first two rounds of the Shorecrest Holiday Tournament. So it was only natural to assume the 6-foot-9 forwards would headline Saturday's championship game that featured teams ranked in the Class 3A state poll by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches. Tampa Prep is fifth, and Shorecrest ninth.

Durham had the better result, named the tournament MVP after scoring 17 points, including a turnaround jumper in the final minute that sealed a 59-52 victory for the Terrapins (11-1). Shorecrest fell to 11-3 as Joyer scored 15.

"I wasn't at my best, but I think I got better as the game progressed," Durham said. "It was hard to get into a rhythm, and I had trouble dribbling. But I was able to help my team with some big buckets at the end."

Bob Putnam, Times staff writer

Boys basketball: Nature Coast, Tarpon Springs reach tourney final 12/28/13 [Last modified: Saturday, December 28, 2013 10:59pm]
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