For three days, Weeki Wachee High School hosted the 2022 4A District 9 Boys Basketball Tournament. On Tuesday, February 8th and Wednesday, February 9th, all four teams focused on defeating their opponents. The main objective was to be named district champions.
First, the Hernando Leopards tipped off against Nature Coast Tech. Unfortunately for the Leopards, court-to-net advantage was not on their side this season. Hernando left the court for the last time in their 2021/2022 season, while Nature Coast Tech took the win 54-46 and moved on to play South Sumter the following night.
Tuesday night’s final showdown was between Weeki Wachee and Crystal River. The Hornets dominated the Pirates with a decisive win at 74-67. Hornets senior Charlie Marsh brought the team to that win by contributing 38 points.
February 9th, 2022, was the final court appearance for Weeki Wachee’s Basketball Coach Steve Boyett as his four-year commitment has ended at Hornet’s nest. “There were some challenging times in the first three years for sure, but this year made it all worth it,” Boyett said.
In 2018 when Boyett stepped into the coaching position for the Hornets, he went from seeing a team that may have been left with uncertainty. Within the four years of his coaching, he saw a group of young men form unity through their perseverance.
“They became a really unique team that helped change the culture. To put faith in me to run the program and support me through that process, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me.” Boyett expressed. “One thing that gives me great peace isn’t that I got to see the goals that I have established for the program happen, and I know going forward, the program is in good shape.”
Boyett owes his success in bringing the team’s momentum in high gear isn’t based solely on coaching skills; It was based on the team’s determination and dedication on and off the court. The combination of individual talent, team support, and court discipline helped raise the program above the stalemate it has been since the first season. Boyett mentioned that there are really good guys coaching basketball within Hernando county. It is fortunate to have coaches that continue to work together regardless of what side of the court they stand on. It was the end of the season for Nature Coast Tech and Weeki Wachee on February 9th. Nature Coast fell to South Sumter, and Weeki Wachee fell to 4A District 9 championship contender Central High.
It’s not the first time Central’s Head Basketball Coach Matthew Zandecki and South Sumter’s Head Basketball Coach A.J Bryant set their eyes on claiming bragging rights as district champions. They both met in 2020 and 2021. On February 11th, 2022, Central once again claimed its district championship over South Sumter. Final score Central 64- South Sumter 49.
Central earned their place on the State Championship Bracket. You can follow Central High School road to State here: Class 4A Boys Basketball Bracket – Florida High School Athletic Association (fhsaa.com)
And now we travel south to Eagle Country. Springstead hosted the 5A District 5 tournament. Seven teams met respectfully on the Greg O’Donnell court to claim a district title. The Eagles started the three-day tournament with a court match-up with Belleview on Tuesday night, February 8th. The Eagles dominated Belleview in a 34 point win 74-40. Wednesday night Springstead started the tournament facing Lecanto. Now there is no love lost between them court-wise, both teams show strength not only by their presence on the court but also by athleticism.
The first two periods, I have to say, were exhilarating. The ball control, steals, and leaps for rebounds were incredible. At halftime, Springstead had a three-point lead over Lecanto. It’s a close game in the fourth period with only 16 more minutes left on the clock, and those final moments determined who will move forward.
Springstead won by 1 point over Lecanto 37-36, and moved up to play Leesburg. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Leesburg claimed the 5A District 5 championship on Friday night, February 11th, by one point 34-33.
However, that did not end the season for Springstead. These guys have an opportunity for the ultimate court comeback as they’re placed on the State Tournament brackets in game 7 of the Class 5A Boys Basketball State Tournament Eagles take on Leesburg again Friday night, February 18th.
Recap of Districts
Weeki Wachee 74 Crystal River 67
Nature Coast Tech 54 Hernando 46
Central and South Sumter BYE
Central 65 Weeki Wachee 45
South Sumter 45 Nature Coast Tech 27
Central 64 South Sumter 49
Springstead 74 Belleview 40
Springstead 37 Lecanto 36
Leesburg 34 Springstead 33
Looking back at the 2021/2022 season.
For Hernando High’s Basketball Coach Travis Brunn, learning and implementing defensive strategies is on the list of goals for next season. “I feel like our program took a lot of steps in the right direction this year. The kids learned a lot, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and hopefully, next year, we will start a new tradition. We all want to win, and we all are willing to sacrifice our time to help these kids get better,” Brunn said.
Nature Coast Tech
Coach Pisarcik stated, “Early on, we had some adversity, and we had to overcome injuries. We struggled throughout the season, but at the end, we improved, we embraced it, and we kept working hard, and as a coach, that’s the most you can ask for.”
Weeki Wachee Basketball Coach Steve Boyett started the season off by applying goals for the returning players. “Individually, each player’s goal was to dominate the player they were before. And corporately as a team to do the same.” Boyett said. “This was the most successful season Weeki Wachee had in the program. There were a lot of firsts.”
Boyett addressed the team’s major turnaround that had ultimately come from each player’s dedication during the off-season. “The goal was the chemistry factor, and that was really hard to build when losing was the dominating factor,” Boyett said. “The byproduct of it was that the kids bonded and formed a life-long friendship. That’s been the best part of what we did in the off-season because that built that foundation.” Boyett recalls a quote from University of Virginia men’s basketball head coach Tony Bennet, “You have to have a team to lose with to enjoy winning with them.”
Coach McGarry shared, “There is always going to be room for individual growth in basketball. All these kids have played with me for so long, so we understood how to defend, we understood what to look for offensively, and any chance we could raise the bar on them, we did. It’s a forever improving thing if we want to continue to play basketball this season. It was more of finding ways to cut things out that were distracting; Whether that was on or off the floor, it was always something we were eliminating to raise the bar.”
Springstead will be traveling to revisit Leesburg on February 17th. “It’s going to be a hard place to play. Leesburg has a tradition of winning and a tradition of support. Defensively we are at a point where we are not doing much wrong. If we can tighten up our (offense), I think we have a shot. These are the things that kind of leave that legacy for the next kids to see and want to achieve,” McGarry said.
Central’s basketball coach Matt Zandecki stated, “We have had a lot of successes this season. We broke the school record for the number of wins and we won Districts for the third time.”
Central goes into the State Tournament bracket with 23 wins and 4 losses. Friday night they will face Lakewood High on the Bear’s home court, to compete for the regional semifinals.
Zandecki would like to get a shout-out to Central’s top-producing player’s Seniors Tre Joyner, averaging 18 points per game, and D.J Brown’s 14 points per game. Their dedication to the program and athleticism is building the stepping stones for future players. “I am proud of them, how well they matured and improved on and off the court,” Zandecki added.