BROOKSVILLE — After beating Nature Coast by five earlier this season at home, Wiregrass Ranch was anxious to meet its Class 4A, District 8 rivals on the road to cement first place in the standings.
The Bulls did just that Friday with a 47-43 victory over the Sharks, although the win did not come without some measure of controversy.
Nature Coast (10-3, 6-2) was in control the first half, outhustling the Bulls to every ball and containing their opponent defensively. The Sharks held a 23-13 advantage going into the locker room.
"We just came out flat," Wiregrass Ranch coach Greg Finkel said. "These girls knew what was at stake tonight though, so it wasn't hard to get them motivated again."
Coming out of the break, not much seemed different. Then, what looked like a routine foul in the low post on Nature Coast center Shareka Maner caused things to unravel. The foul was called an intentional foul, which Sharks coach Travis Lamle argued before the bench was given a technical foul.
After Wiregrass Ranch (11-1, 9-0) knocked down 2-of-4 free throws and converted a three-point play when it received the ball back, the five-point swing drained all momentum from the home team.
The game broke down into a sloppy display for much of the second half with both teams doubling their first-half foul totals. The pace of the game did not lend itself to stellar play, but guard Regan Knopik (21 points, four steals) was the obvious leader for the Bulls when the team went on its winning run.
Nature Coast received a solid performance from guard Jen Marshall (14 points, five rebounds, two steals).
The loss all but ends the Sharks' chances of getting the top seed for the district tournament that they will host in February.