NEW PORT RICHEY — Gulf coach Mike Quarto and Wesley Chapel's Karim Nohra are mirror images of each other.
Both yell out instructions to their floor generals on the court and can never take a seat for one second during the game, or after the game talking about the next matchup.
Thursday night, Quarto's Buccaneers won the first go-round and received a surprise performance from sophomore guard Leighlani Paselio (18 points) to narrowly defeat Nohra's Wildcats 47-37 at the Bever-Hicks Center.
Nohra cited the close game as just one of several battles between the two teams.
"Today they won the battle, but the war isn't over yet," Nohra said.
The game was won on the free-throw line down the stretch. For the game the Bucs (4-1) shot 15-of-25 from the line and the Wildcats (3-1) were 4-of-17.
Wesley Chapel took a brief 19-18 lead after Shantel Houston's steal (one of her four) and breakaway layup.
Gulf took a 20-19 lead into halftime and in the second half went on an 8-0 run to increase its lead to nine with 5:56 left in the third quarter. The Buccaneers' biggest lead was 11 early in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats closed within 41-37 on Gabrielle Brown's short jumper from the wing with 2:03 left.
But Wesley Chapel was forced to foul and Gulf went 6-of-7 from the line in the final minutes.
"(Leighlani) gave us a great spark tonight," Quarto said.
"We are not as good as people think we are at this time of year, but hopefully we can get there."