NEW PORT RICHEY — A layup by Tom Guglielmello pulled Land O'Lakes ahead for the first time and another layup took the Gators to the win Tuesday night.
"I think Tommy's really MVP tonight," coach Dave Puhalski said. "He was making those big shots."
Land O'Lakes beat Gulf 48-43 after trailing the first three quarters. Guglielmello was certainly part of the Gators' comeback. He had a game-high 30 points, making six shots from beyond the arc.
Land O'Lakes (11-9) and River Ridge (13-9) are both at 9-4 in Class 5A, District 8 — right behind top seed Tarpon Springs.
The Gators started slowly against Gulf and didn't build momentum until the third quarter. They ended the first half with a seven-point deficit.
"We thought about how we were playing, and we knew we weren't playing hard enough," Guglielmello said.
Puhalski said the first few minutes of the second half showed the Gators could turn it around. The defense began frustrating the Bucs, giving Land O'Lakes time to catch up.
With just seconds remaining in the third quarter, Chris Turner hit a 3 that tied the score at 30, the first time Land O'Lakes closed the gap.
Gulf's Edin Spijodic sank a 3 almost immediately after, and the Bucs ended the third still in the lead. But they couldn't maintain it in the final quarter. Land O'Lakes finally pulled ahead with less than three minutes left.
Land O'Lakes' Ethan Weilant went up for a layup, but Andre Wilson swatted the ball away. Guglielmello got the rebound and subsequent layup to give the Gators their first lead, 40-38.
Gulf pulled ahead once more, but a combination of shots from the inside by Guglielmello and Brandon Dorsey secured the win.
NCT settles in at No. 1
BROOKSVILLE — With first place in Class 5A, District 7 on the line, Wesley Chapel seemingly had Nature Coast right where it wanted it Tuesday night.
While the Wildcats had gone 9-1 since losing to Nature Coast in mid-December, the Sharks suffered all six of their losses in that span. It looked as if the four-time defending district champions were ripe for the picking.
Instead, the Sharks completed a season sweep of Wesley Chapel with a 38-32 victory.
"We've won our share of games the past few weeks, but we haven't played championship basketball," Nature Coast coach David Pisarcik said. "The kids are starting to understand what it's going to take to win these types of games."
The Wildcats (17-3, 7-2) jumped out to an 18-9 lead in the first quarter with Nature Coast (17-6, 9-1) struggling offensively. The backcourt pressure applied to sharpshooter Carlos Clemente was working — temporarily.
Clemente's 3-pointer as the first quarter drew to a close kicked off a 12-0 run to put the Sharks up at halftime. The senior guard finished with 17 points, including five 3s, but fellow guard Jordan Burkes served as a spark plug for Nature Coast on both ends of the court.
A Tampa Catholic transfer, Burkes (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals) has been the best individual defender for much of the year. Wesley Chapel's leading scorer, Carson Emery, made his first and only field goal with 3:46 remaining in regulation, a far cry from his usual 14 points per game.
"I always try to go for the steal because it's a huge momentum turn," Burkes said.
Nature Coast also came away with a 35-16 advantage on the boards with Cody Bergantino (11 rebounds) leading the way.
Derek J. LaRiviere, Times correspondent