BROOKSVILLE — From the bench, Land O'Lakes coach David Puhalski yelled to one of his players, "You're getting lost among the trees!"
That's how the Gators felt for much of Tuesday night as Nature Coast topped visiting Land O'Lakes 50-29.
Puhalski knew his team faced a mismatch down low. Land O'Lakes (1-5) came into the contest with an obvious game plan of ball control and slowing the pace of the game. After a first-quarter score of 8-3, the Gators looked like they were onto something.
The rest of the game was a different story. Adam Smith, Nature Coast's leading scorer, started getting the ball in position to make things happen, and the rest of the offense followed. After scoring only three points in the opening period, Smith finished with 16, including two 3-pointers.
"We are still working on building our team chemistry," Smith said, "but when we execute, we're tough to beat."
On the other hand, the Gators never got things going with the ball in hand. Despite their patient approach on that side of the court, the size inside for Nature Coast (7-1) proved to be too much to overcome. Sharks center Tyler Bergantino (six points, six rebounds, two blocks), who stands 6-foot-9, altered almost every attempt Land O'Lakes made in the paint.
"Tyler does so much for us defensively," Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik said. "He can dominate a game without doing anything on offense."
The Gators scored 18 in the paint and were outrebounded by Nature Coast 31-15. Showing just how much impact the Nature Coast sophomore had inside, 12 of those points and eight of those boards came in the eight minutes that Bergantino was catching a rest on the bench.