The Nature Coast Tech Varsity Boys basketball team (3-1) defeated the Hernando Leopards (2-2) by a slim 42-37 margin on Tuesday night at the Shark Tank. Both squads came into the evening having won their most recent contests and getting back on track after early-season hiccups. A game of runs resulted as the teams battled it out to see who could keep the ball rolling. While Hernando Head Coach Travis Bruns liked some of what he saw, he felt offensive execution held the Leopards back.
“I mean, we had a lot of energy,” Coach Bruns said. “It’s just we didn’t execute. Defensively you hold a team to 42 points, we should have a really good chance of winning, which we still did. Offensively we just didn’t get it done.”
Despite Hernando’s offensive woes, the game went back and forth in the first half, and the visitors stayed within striking distance until the clock read all zeroes. The Sharks would get the scoring started right away with a steal and layup by Senior Small Forward Konnor Kramer about 30 seconds into the contest. After a short two-point shot to tie the score, roughly three minutes of game time would roll by without a basket from either side. Hernando would then show why it was so hard to put them away. After Senior RJ Wilson missed an attempt from beyond the arc, a quick rebound and pass to Senior Will Tigue saw the Leopard knock down the trey. The home team then knotted the score at five apiece by way of a Senior Point Guard Luke Sanders three. Hernando would corral another rebound soon after on a missed trey, and Wilson would manage a three-point play with a layup and a free throw.
“We stressed turnovers and rebounds since last year, Coach Bruns said. “When it came down to it, we just didn’t run the offense. We didn’t have the right spacing, things we need to work on in practice. Nature Coast is just well-coached. They did enough to win, and we didn’t.”
Despite Hernando’s efforts in the paint, Nature Coast Head Coach David Pisarcik’s squad was simply too much for the visiting Leopards. One of the scoring runs of the evening, which spanned the late second and early third quarters, was accomplished by the home team. After scoring eight straight points, Hernando enjoyed a tenuous three-point lead with 2:02 left in the opening half. From that point, until there was 5:17 remaining in the third, it was all Nature Coast. This stretch saw the Sharks score 14 unanswered points en route to an 11-point lead. That proved to be too great of a deficit for the Leopards’ offense to dig themselves out of on Tuesday night.
Nature Coast had opportunities to put the game away heading into the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead, but Hernando kept up their scrappy play and continued to log rebounds. This gave them more scoring opportunities and kept the ball out of the home team’s hands as the game wore on. The aggressive play would end up backfiring on the visitors, though, as they racked up fouls in the final period. After Wilson brought the deficit back to three with a shot from downtown, Hernando fouled the Sharks twice in the final 20 seconds in an attempt to get the ball back. This allowed Sanders to make the last of his team-high 30 points by way of a free throw to bring the score to its 42-37 conclusion.
“Offensively, we’re going to get better,” Coach Bruns said. “When things get chaotic, and things get hard, we got to learn how to still get points on the board, still go through the offense, don’t give up on it so easily. But defensively, I’m still pretty proud of my kids.”
The Leopards will look to turn their fortunes around when they travel to play the Gulf Buccaneers (1-3) on Wednesday evening. Next up for Nature Coast, they will face River Ridge (2-2). Coach Pisarcik and company will hope to keep a one in the loss column following their bout with the Royal Knights on Wednesday night.