BROOKSVILLE — The stop-and-go traffic dictated by the whistles of three referees Friday challenged momentum.
Somehow, Nature Coast and Lecanto drudged through a game that lasted more than two hours.
In all 51 fouls were called, slowing what was billed to be a matchup between programs with just one loss between them.
The megamatchup failed to materialize, but Nature Coast still managed to hand Lecanto its first loss of the season with a 66-51 victory.
The Sharks loaded their schedule with tough opponents in anticipation of claiming a playoff berth. Lecanto (10-1) provided a good benchmark.
"Our schedule is tough for a reason," Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik said. "Lecanto has been tough forever. We knew it would be a tough game. … We want to be battle-tested for a team like this."
The Sharks (10-1) took the lead for good on a three-point play in the first quarter, capped by a free throw from senior Jamel Byrd to make it 9-6. Nature Coast pushed the lead to double digits in the second half before Lecanto climbed back into contention.
A buzzer-beating, halfcourt 3-pointer by Lecanto forward Cortney Sawyer (game-high 21 points) ended the first half to cut the lead to seven. Two free throws by guard Addison Holstein to start the third quarter put Lecanto within five points.
That's as close as the Panthers got.
Nature Coast pushed the lead to double digits once more, going up by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter.
The Sharks were led by the trio of Adam Smith (16 points), Donovan Ingram (12) and Tyler Bergantino (12).
"We came out with intensity and that made it good from the start," Bergantino said. "It feels good to get a win. It was a big game for us."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.