Photography by Cheryl Clanton
by JOE CARLINO
Hernando Sun Sports Reporter
A few weeks ago, in the district tournament, the Nature Coast Sharks lost the title to the Crystal River Pirates in heartbreaking fashion: a long missed three-point attempt that was rebounded and quickly passed to a deadeye in the corner for the game-winning shot. After the contest, NCT’s players were visibly heartbroken, which brought to mind a quote by Sharks head coach Dave Pisarcik five years ago: “The teams who lose in the regional tournament are the ones that break down mentally. Always happens.”
If anything, that loss was a reality check for this year’s team. And it brought them further than anyone probably would’ve imagined.
Going on the road for three straight games, the Sharks barely got past Anclote, destroyed Crystal River in a revenge contest, then got revenge on Palatka to advance to the state semifinals at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. Their run, however, ended Wednesday night, when they were defeated 76-45 to the eventual state champion Fort Lauderdale-Stranahan Mighty Dragons (who beat Lakewood 63-54 the following night).
For the Sharks, the team shot 35% from the floor (18 of 51) and 22% from long range (4 of 21). They were led by junior center Orien Adams, who finished the contest with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Also, senior guard Robert Gomez scored 11 points in his final high school game, and Brandon Clarke added six points.
As for Stranahan, their team shot 58% from the floor (30 of 52) and 33% from long range (5 of 15). They were paced by center Inady Legiste (23 points, six rebounds) and guard Brian Dugazon (21 points, three rebounds).
“It was definitely exciting to make it back to (Lakeland) for this event,” said Pisarcik afterwards. “I know the guys are happy about it, and we as coaches are happy as well. Nobody had the opportunity to go on the road and win those types of games in those kinds of environments, so three tough road wins is great.”
The Sharks kept it close in the contest, only being down by six points at the end of the first quarter (even being as close as one point following a Gomez three). However, the second and third quarters proved to be the difference, as NCT was outscored 37-14 in that span of 16 minutes as Legiste and Dugazon simply could not be contained.
“They (Stranahan) had speed to neutralize our scorers. Obviously, a little bit more athletically gifted, but we knew that going in, so we tried to prepare the best we could to execute our game plan, and they’re the #1 team in the state. We knew what we were getting into.”
For Nature Coast, they end the season with a 25-6 record, and the group of five seniors now begin their final countdown towards graduation and the beginning of their collegiate and future careers. Despite the squad not making it to the ultimate goal, they found a way to persevere throughout all obstacles to reach this point. To the team, this season was a success. As for the seniors, Pisarcik had one thing to say about this group: “I’m proud of these guys and the season they had. To be able to accomplish our goals of winning a regional final and make it to this point, is great. Love these guys.”