The Nature Coast Tech Sharks Varsity Girls Basketball team (13-7) defeated the Hudson Cobras (2-19) by a dominating 52-12 margin at the Shark Tank on Tuesday night. This neutral playoff game was a part of the 2023 Girls Basketball District Tournaments – 4A District 9. Coming into the matchup, not only did the teams’ records stand in stark contrast to one another, but Nature Coast and its team leaders led the Cobras in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. The Sharks also fared far better against common opponents than the visitors in black and red, going 7-5 as opposed to 2-11 versus those teams. The underdogs from Hudson had hoped to steal a victory at the Shark Tank, but Nature Coast Head Coach Emily Gore’s squad took care of business at home after a somewhat sluggish start.
“A little disappointed at the start to be honest,” Coach Gore said. “I just felt like we weren’t really focused and ready to play, but we obviously kind of snapped out of it. Did a little bit better late in the first quarter and into the second quarter; we got going a little bit. So, hopefully, that helps us for tomorrow, but we’ll see.”
While the home team got things started with a layup by Senior Gabriella Lee, the Cobras managed to hold a slim 3-2 advantage midway through the first quarter before the Sharks began to get in a rhythm. With 3:54 remaining in the initial frame, Junior Isabella Castillo would knock down a two-point jumper to give the white jersey-clad Sharks a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the night. Junior Quintara Norwood made a pair of shots and Lee would bookend the period by logging a basket just before the quarter expired.
The first three minutes of the second frame proved to be the strongest stretch offensively for the visitors. A layup by Junior Jada Marty and a pair of two-point baskets by Senior Alex Campbell trimmed the score to a 16-9 deficit with just over five minutes left on the clock before halftime. The Cobras would come no closer in this matchup as the result turned lopsided in a hurry. Nature Coast would proceed to immediately answer with two points, and Marty would be unable to capitalize on a pair of scoring opportunities with the score resting at 18-9. Hudson would begin a nine-minute stretch of game time spanning the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third, where they were unable to score a single point. As the visitors failed to put points on the board, Coach Gore’s squad proceeded to take a commanding 28-9 lead heading into the intermission.
Lee, who led the team with 14 points on the evening, scored the two opening baskets of the second half for the Sharks with a layup and a long two-pointer. The home team continued to pour on the scores as the next time Hudson logged a single point; the scoreboard read 42-10. Freshman Cassie Dejesus knocked down a free throw and made a layup on a breakaway following a steal. This proved to be the visitors’ only points of the third quarter and of the entire half. All told, Nature Coast outscored Hudson 36-3 over the final 21 minutes of regulation. Despite the home team’s comfortable 40-point win, Coach Gore reiterated that she wants to see her squad work on remaining focused in the early stages of the game. This is especially pertinent with the district semifinals on deck.
“I just think their mentality starting a game and their focus,” Coach Gore said. “They’re high school kids, so sometimes their head’s everywhere else instead of where it should be. So, that’s just something that we have to keep working on.”
While Hudson’s season comes to an unceremonious end, second-seed Nature Coast advances to play the third-seed Anclote Sharks (17-7), who just finished a 73-29 demolition of the Central Bears (1-21). The home team will need to be focused from the jump in this Sharks versus Sharks matchup that tips off at Nature Coast on Wednesday. Elsewhere in the district tournament, the top-seeded Weeki Wachee Hornets (20-5) will host the four-seed Crystal River Pirates (15-9) in the semifinals on Wednesday.