BROOKSVILLE — Friday night was supposed to be Nature Coast's opportunity to exhibit its newfound dominance in the area over winless Hernando. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the Leopards.
While the Sharks did walk away with a 69-52 victory on its home floor, Nature Coast was challenged early by a feisty Hernando squad.
All the talk coming into the contest was about the frontcourt for Nature Coast (6-0): 6-foot-9 center Tyler Bergantino and 6-7 power forward Adam Smith form one of the biggest, if not the most potent, connections on the North Suncoast. However, the physical play of Hernando (0-6) offset this matchup for the first half.
"(Hernando) came out bodying us up to start with," Bergantino said. "In the second half, we started to come back at them with more intensity."
The Leopards held a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Bobby Conway. The Nature Coast lead was only five going into halftime.
"If you're the opposing coach, you want to take away Tyler and let someone else beat you," Nature Coast coach Dave Pisarcik said. "Give Hernando credit. They really tested us by coming out and attacking us early."
As expected, Smith (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Bergantino (12 points, eight rebounds, six blocks) were able to put up their numbers, but the surprise contributions came from the opposing side.
Hernando power forward Thomas Bronson (12 points), who rarely shoots from distance, knocked down two 3-pointers in the first half. Derek Wilson (14 points, four assists) also reached double figures for the Leopards.