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Sharks an unknown entity

Published Nov. 28, 2006

The jury is still out on which Nature Coast team fans have seen the first two games of the season.

After defeating Hudson in the season opener, the Sharks jumped to an early lead over Mitchell and held it all the way through the final horn for a 41-36 victory on Wednesday night.

Mitchell, in its first season under coach Larry Holden, is expected to be a power in Pasco County, but the program has started 0-2. A close loss to Ridgewood, another good team, and a loss to Nature Coast may say more about the Mustangs than either of their two opponents.

This is where questions about Nature Coast arise. Coach Travis Priddy has centered the program around two main concepts.

The first is a four-guard offense. As the Sharks do not have any overpowering post forces on the roster, Priddy decided the best chance for Nature Coast's success this season is to make sure all five starters are able to score at any time.

"Most teams we play are going to overmatch us one-on-one," Priddy said. "The important thing is that we find ways to take advantage of that."

With Josh Ortiz playing the role of a traditional power forward at only 6-3, the Sharks survive on the ability of the four other starters, all guards, to pass the ball around the perimeter before taking open jumpers.

In that sense, Joe Sylvestri may be the most important offensive cog for the Sharks. He is the most consistent outside threat and his ability to hit 3-pointers opens the middle for Ortiz. Against Mitchell, he finished with three 3s on his way to 11 points.

The second concept Priddy has stressed is an aggressive defense. Playing heads-up defense against teams that almost always will overmatch them physically is not an option, so the Sharks rely on ball pressure and quickness.

The Mustangs seemed caught off guard by the constant pressure, turning over the ball multiple times.

There are still concerns about Nature Coast. Will these fundamental concepts be enough against some of the better organized teams that also have size? And what about composure?

At the end of the Mitchell game, with the Sharks leading 41-34 with under a minute left, Ortiz committed a shooting foul, then compounded the issue with a technical. Four free throws would have made it a one-possession game and put a Nature Coast win in jeopardy. Luckily for Ortiz, who led the team with 12 points, opposing guard Geoff Balkon made only 2-of-4.

"A win is a win, but there are things we need to work on for sure," Priddy said. "(Ortiz) was frustrated about something that happened on the other end of the floor, and that can't happen."

Nature Coast looks to get its second district win tonight at home against Pasco.

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