Coming into the game between Hernando County archrival schools Springstead and Nature Coast, Nature Coast head coach Dave Pisarcik joked that Springstead’s head coach Matthew McGarry always circled this game on the calendar because he hadn’t beaten NCT in a basketball game since 2009. And like all NCT-Springstead games, the Shark Tank was flooded with fans representing both sides, which made it clear that this game wasn’t any different than previous meetings.
That last statement is somewhat true, the only difference being how this contest ended.
Refusing to give up and allow NCT to extend its winning streak to 19-0, the visiting Eagles used a 23-point fourth quarter surge to take the lead with 5:10 remaining in the game, then held on to finally defeat their rival 71-64. The Eagles were aided by some impressive shooting from the charity stripe, making 30 out of the 36 attempts (83 percent).
For the game, Nature Coast shot 15 of 27 from the field and 8 of 32 from 3-point range (25 percent), while Springstead shot 16 of 31 from the field and 3 of 13 from long distance. And despite the shot totals, NCT won the rebounding battle 30-22. The turnover battle was a key factor in the outcome as well, with four Shark players each accounting for 80 percent of their total turnovers (16 of 20), while Springstead only had 13 turnovers. Not only that, but NCT was in foul trouble in both halves, with star sharpshooter Austin Rivera fouling out with 4:49 remaining in the game.
Both teams predominately had one player gain most of their overall point totals; for Springstead, forward Zach Meyer had a team-high 22 points, 10 of which came from converting every free-throw attempt, while Nature Coast had their playmaker Robert McAfee scored a game-high 28 points.
After the game concluded, the locker rooms couldn’t have been more different. The Eagles locker room was jubilant over finally defeating their rival, while in NCT’s locker room, one could practically hear a pin drop.
When asked about the game’s final moments, McGarry replied “We’re a pretty hyped up team. We look forward to this game every year, and it usually slips up on us. We didn’t have (Zach) Meyer during last year’s meeting, but during the pregame meeting, we were more relaxed than they were and something felt different about tonight”. McGarry also didn’t leave out a key contributor to his beliefs, saying “We had God on our side tonight. All the glory goes to God”.
On the other side of the ball, Pisarcik wasn’t about to try and pin the blame on anybody. “You got to give Springstead credit. They came out to battle tonight, and it showed. They wanted to win this game, and they deserved to win. When you’re creating free throws for your team, that is a big factor. I felt like we handled their (full-court) press extremely well, but we had a crucial stretch where we were constantly turning the ball over, and they capitalized. This game is a lesson learned, and we’re going to get back to the drawing board and determine what went wrong for us and how we can prevent that from happening again”.
For Nature Coast, their next opponent on the ledger is a matchup on the road against Hernando in another classic district matchup. For the Eagles, their next opponent is also on the road this Friday, and their opponent is the team that Nature Coast defeated last Friday night, the Mitchell Mustangs.