Going into Friday's matchup against Gulf, Nature Coast really didn't spend a lot of time fueling itself off last year's loss.
The Sharks focused their preparation on fine-tuning their game instead of dredging up old memories. After all, Nature Coast, which returned all of its starters and more with varsity experience from last year, knew it was the team to beat this time around.
On Friday, the Sharks made sure everybody else believed that, too.
Four players scored in double figures, and Nature Coast defeated Gulf 56-43, marking the first time the Sharks have ever defeated their usually toughest district competition.
Nature Coast is 5-0 overall and in the district.
The Sharks moved quickly, winning the tip and going on a 9-0 run. They outscored Gulf 21-10 in the first quarter.
A rattled Gulf squad struggled to settle into its offense.
"I think we outworked Gulf a little bit," Nature Coast coach Jason Montgomery said. "And I think this is a turnaround from last year where they were more athletic."
This time Nature Coast was tough to defend with its balanced scoring attack. Junior Lauren Wajerski led the Sharks with 12 points. Shereka Manor and Cherikhan Waddy, who scored 10 each, were dangerous off the dribble. Guard Jessica Eberts more often set up near the perimeter. Eberts finished with 10 points, including two 3s.
Gulf was led by Jordan Schulman, who scored 16 points and knocked down three 3s. Schulman left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
Kellie Dixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-9480.