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Nature Coast tapping into intensity

Nature Coast’s Adam Smith, working around Ridgewood’s Michael Wood on Tuesday, was one of three Sharks to finish with a double double in the semifinal victory.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Nature Coast’s Adam Smith, working around Ridgewood’s Michael Wood on Tuesday, was one of three Sharks to finish with a double double in the semifinal victory.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The script for the perfect game starts in the visitor's locker room.

Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik recites the opening lines of an honest pregame speech. He looks around a room deep inside the cinder block walls of Ridgewood, his players wearing all black uniforms, emphasizing their role as the bad guys on this night.

"This is a good team," Pisarcik said of the opponent. "Ridgewood has not lost at home in two years."

Pisarcik found the right potion of tone and words to spark something deep within each player.

"Every single person in this locker room came out knowing we wanted to have more intensity than them," Sharks sophomore Tyler Bergantino said after a 76-58 win over Ridgewood on Tuesday. "We came out strong, knowing we could beat this team."

The win seemed to boost Nature Coast into a higher orbit as a basketball team.

If these Sharks (27-3) are a team of destiny, they'll have to take down Orlando Oak Ridge tonight in a Class 4A region final, the first in program history.

And they might have to do so without star forward Adam Smith. He will be a game-time decision after rolling his left ankle during practice Thursday. Friday, he was on crutches.

Pioneers coach Derek Heard looked at Nature Coast for the first time Friday morning. Heard coached Pasco last year for one season before returning to Oak Ridge, where he had been an assistant for two years.

During his short stay on the North Suncoast, Heard never crossed paths with the Sharks.

The Pioneers (22-8) are somewhat similar to Nature Coast.

They have solid guards in O'Neal Lubin and Antonio Ansley. They'll match Bergantino up front with 6-foot-9 forward Cady Lalanne, a Georgia signee.

"That's what we've been thinking," Heard said of the anticipated matchup with the 6-9 Bergantino. "I'm sure (Lalanne) is looking forward to playing someone his size."

If Bergantino and Co. can continue their strong play from Tuesday, Nature Coast should have a great shot at the final four.

The well-rounded effort made Tuesday's win special.

Consider Bergantino's 19 points and 15 rebounds, Smith's 18 points and 10 rebounds and Blake Lowman's 16 points and 10 assists. Even Guan Whitsett and Jamel Byrd played priceless minutes with great ball control and quick moves.

Ultimately, that unselfishness has led to new heights.

"It's not about who gets the points, it's not about who gets the rebounds," Pisarcik said. "That's why they're starting to become a team."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

Nature Coast tapping into intensity 02/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 26, 2010 7:22pm]
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