Wednesday night’s culmination of Nature Coast’s annual Christmas tournament was both entertaining and anticlimactic—all at the same time. Nature Coast won the opening tip, but the visiting Plant City Raiders were in control the whole way.
The first four minutes of the first quarter of play were, by far, the most competitive portion of the game. Both teams took it in turns to go on four- or five-point runs. The score went back and forth like a seesaw and remained close. That is, until the last four minutes of that opening frame. In those final four minutes of the first quarter, the Raiders outscored the Sharks 15-6. That burst resulted in a score of 22-11 to start the second quarter.
From that point on, Nature Coast never seriously threatened the Plant City lead.
There were, however, some very entertaining individual efforts. Most notable of which was the Raider’s Senior power forward Ezereke Dawson. Dawson contributed early in the paint with a couple of buckets in the first quarter. But then, in the third, Ezereke really started to assert himself in spectacular, high-flying fashion. Early in the second half, coming off of a screen designed to open up the back door, Dawson caught a well-placed lob and slammed it home. Then, later in the same frame, Dawson broke open on a fast break and finished with a powerful two-handed jam over the trailing Nature Coast defenders. Dawson finished the game with 14 points.
In a valiant effort for the Sharks, Senior small forward Kaden Long was in the fray all night. He turned in an inspired effort on defense. On offense, though Long was significantly out-sized by the Plant City bigs, he fearlessly attacked the hoop throughout the entirety of the game. Long led the Nature Coast scorers with 15 points.
Other notable performances came from the Raiders’ Todd Miller who led all scorers with 17. DJ Haynes also pitched in 15 points to the Plant City effort.
At the conclusion of the game, both teams honored their standouts. Nature Coast Seniors Justin Bunkelman and Kaden Long were selected to the All-Tournament team. Plant City Seniors Ezereke Dawson and Andrew Walden were given the same honor. These players had great showings in this tournament, and now they have the accolades to prove it.
The takeaway from the tournament’s ultimate game was more than the 75-38 final score favoring the victorious Plant City Raiders. No. If you watched this game, you could not help but notice the way the game was played. It is plain to see that Coach Teeden for the Raiders and Coach Pisarcik for the Sharks have put in the work with these young men. They have drilled the fundamentals. They have taught their players how to think the game of basketball. They have demanded excellence from their teams and it shows.
I cannot wait to see what these two teams do with the rest of their seasons.