CLEARWATER — For a little more than two quarters, Nature Coast stayed within striking range of Winter Haven, cutting its deficit to 30-27. It gave they Sharks confidence that they could win their semifinal game and stay undefeated.
At about that time, the Blue Devils dialed up the pressure. Relying on speed, Winter Haven trapped and harassed. That made life miserable for Nature Coast, which could not play the game to which it was accustomed.
The result was a barrage of turnovers and transition points for the Blue Devils, who went on a 23-0 run en route to a 57-30 victory Friday at the Bright House Holiday Tournament.
The Sharks (9-1) play Clearwater in tonight's consolation game at 6. Winter Haven faces Poinciana in the championship game at 8.
"Winter Haven is incredibly fast and athletic and we just aren't used to that type of quickness," Nature Coast coach David Pisarcik said. "We might see it here or there for a little while in some games but not like this."
It didn't help that the Sharks missed their most athletic player, Rohan Blackwood, who was in Wisconsin for an all-star football game. His absence was felt midway through the third quarter when the Blue Devils turned up the intensity. Chance McSpadden, rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN, ignited Winter Haven's run.
He had a team-high 23 points, 12 during that second-half run.
"(McSpadden) just took over," Pisarcik said. "It was like he decided that we had hung around in the game too much, and like any great player, he went out and closed the game for his team."
The Sharks did not have a player reach double figures in scoring. Jordan Burkes led with eight points.
Though Nature Coast was routed, this was the kind of game Pisarcik wanted in this tournament.
"We wanted to be in this tournament to see something different and play this type of speed," Pisarcik said. "It will only make us better."
Eagles lose to Largo
LARGO — Once Largo started finishing on the offensive end, Springstead was finished.
But it wasn't an easy trip to the host Packers' ninth straight victory, 65-56. Especially early, the district newbies brought a lot of energy and discipline, leading much of the first half before a late Largo run led to a one-point advantage at the break.
"Being poised under pressure, not taking quick shots, making them guard us, that was our game plan," Eagles coach Tim Plumadore said. "We knew they were long, they were fast, and they were athletic. We wanted to make them work as hard as possible."
Behind hustling efforts from Aaron Waddy (nine of his 11 points in the first half) and guard Devonte Valentin (game-high 22 points), Springstead (8-3, 3-2 district) kept Largo (9-0, 2-0) off balance.
But when Largo got a little more disciplined and patient on offense, the tide turned. After a first half of rushed shots and misses, center Brandon Jones was a changed man in the final 16 minutes. He combined with Brandon Drayton for 32 points and 27 rebounds.
Chuck Frye, Times correspondent