BROOKSVILLE — Both sides of the gym were packed with fans Tuesday night for a game everyone expected to be close.
"Coming into the game, it's a big rivalry," Nature Coast coach David Pisarcik said. "Records go out the window when you face a team like this one."
Nature Coast (13-4, 6-0) eked out a lead in the first quarter and kept it until the end, 58-50, against Springstead (9-6, 3-2).
The game was marked by a high number of turnovers, but Nature Coast never lost the lead after the first quarter.
The teams are well acquainted, and the players regularly talk to each other throughout the season, Pisarcik said. He expected a difficult match from a Springstead team currently ranked third in its district. The Eagles have three excellent guards this year, Pisarcik added, making them a tough team to beat.
Springstead scored the first field goal of the night courtesy of Devonte Valentin, but the Sharks were quick to take the lead back. The Eagles' Aaron Waddy tied the score at 5 with a 3-pointer, but Springstead trailed by three points when the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter.
Both teams forced turnovers in the second and third quarters, keeping the score low and fans tense.
They lit up the scoreboard in the fourth, though. Nature Coast had 20 points, and Springstead had 19, though the Eagles never had a chance to catch up. Four free throws were the last points of the game. Andrew Parker had two for the Sharks and Waddy had two for the Eagles with less than six seconds left.
NCT's Carlos Clemente led both teams in points (21) and field goals. Teammate Cody Bergantino added 12.
Waddy led the Eagles with 16 points, and Wilfred Pagan had 10. David Vo sank three 3-pointers, tying with Clemente.
The Eagles will need to bounce back from the loss quickly. They face district foe Largo, ranked first in 6A-10, on Friday.
"They can win any game the way they're playing," Pisarcik said. "We knew we had to limit their opportunities."