With the girls basketball squad's Tuesday upset of previously unbeaten South Lake, Pirates coach Scott Lyons thinks his team sent a message to the rest of the Class 4A, District 9 squads.
"It was a huge win," Lyons said. "That kind of let them know that we've arrived."
Crystal River appears to be peaking at the right time. The Pirates had won seven of eight and were 16-6 before Thursday's game against Nature Coast Tech.
Sophomore guard Lacey Lyons led Crystal River with 26 points against South Lake. Senior center Jennifer MacRae had her best effort of the season, finishing with 6 points, 7 blocks and 8 rebounds.
The Pirates are 9-4 in the district.
Crystal River plays host to Lecanto tonight. The winner earns the district's No. 2 seed. The Panthers won when the teams played at Lecanto three weeks ago.
MAT CHAT: A football injury Joe Bertine sustained last fall was so severe it required surgery in October to repair a broken right shoulder. But he now is healthy and competing for the wrestling squad in the 135-pound division.
"He really worked to get in shape," wrestling coach Bill Tovine said. "We take it a little easy on him. We can't push him that hard. But he has been putting in quality time on the mat and producing good matches."
The sophomore joined the team during winter break. He's 3-4.
"I'm feeling really comfortable," Bertine said. "(The Shoulder) hasn't bothered me at all."
Tovine sees big things in Bertine's future. "It's not far out for him to qualify for state this year if he got after it and trained really hard. Right now we want to get him through districts. Anything after that is going to be icing on the cake."
ON THE RISE: Sophomore J.C. Livingston has been one of the area's top young basketball players this season. The 6-foot-4 forward averages 11.2 points and is the squad's leading rebounder at 5.6 a game.
Livingston has steadily improved and had a career-best effort Tuesday night against South Lake, finishing with 35 points and 17 boards.
"He's picking it up," coach Tony Stukes said. "He has worked out and gotten stronger. We're looking for scoring right now, and he has stepped up."
With the recent dismissals of guard Chris Bunch and forward Chianta Smith, senior starters, Livingston's improved play came at the right time. Stukes said the player has the potential to eventually earn a college scholarship.
"He's just learning to play," Stukes said. "He's going to be a good one."
_ KEITH NIEBUHR