By MEL SUITER, Hernando Sun Sports Reporter
Photography by Alice Mary Herden
BROOKSVILLE, Fla. --- Day one, had all the emotion that a tournament is supposed to have.
The Nature Coast Tech Christmas Tournament featured good games from early in the morning to late in the evening. There were games that showcased one team’s heart and determination. A couple of undefeated teams tasted defeat for the first time.
And then there was the game between Nature Coast Tech High School and Freedom High School from Tampa on Dec. 27, 2019.
This game was not attractive, but Freedom High School did advance to the winner’s bracket by defeating Nature Coast Tech High School 44-35, handing the Sharks their third loss of this year’s basketball season.
Freedom High School against the Sharks, did take care of the little things, they were competing hard, the Patriots brought the energy to the floor and they forced the Sharks into making some bad offensive choices.
After the game against Weeki Wachee High School before the Christmas break, Pisarcik said that his team is going through some trouble finding points on the floor but he said that he expected, the slump.
Nature Coast Tech needed to get started in the first quarter with a strong showing with the offense but the man-to-man defense played by Freedom High School swarmed in front of the ball and forced the Sharks’ offense into turning the ball over and missing the open man with bad passing skills added to the Sharks’ struggle to score baskets.
In the second quarter the Patriots switched the defense into a 2-3 zone defense and a 2-2-1 zone, the Sharks were not able to find the open passing lane or score from beyond the 3-point arch.
“Our defense is what we pride our program on,” Freedom High School basketball coach Ken Angel said after the game. “It was kind of lacking in the past few games. This game we stepped it up. Our defense was stronger, less mistakes on defense, we covered the court.”
The offense for the Sharks was concentrating in getting senior forward Philip Scalise open in the corner, so he could shoot the ball for three-points. Since scoring 32 points against Crystal River High School, Scalise has been struggling with his accuracy from the floor.
Defensive mistakes made by the Sharks created a lot of sloppy offense. The Sharks were out of position too many times for rebounds. They lost the battle for 50/50 balls and these are some of the little things that Pisarcik sees from his team and these are the little details that he wants to correct.
“That is why we play this tournament- to see what we are made of. Missing a couple of starters tonight, it hurt us a little bit and it is not about the loss, it is about getting better as a team,” Pisarcik said after the team meeting. “There were some good things that we can take out of it, we got to get better, we got to make shots.”
Ken Angel remarked about his team’s performance, “It was not the best performance of the season, we have been struggling. We need that victory to right the ship a little bit. I got a young team, graduated eight seniors last year, so I got some guys are coming up and they are learning. They are getting better and stronger every day.”
Freedom High School offense was led by guard Bernard Reynolds with 11 points followed by forward Kibwe Dorsey with seven points.
On Day 2 of the tournament, Nature Coast Tech was defeated by an undermanned but determined Fivay High School team. Fivay only went seven men deep and the 62-57, comeback victory was a show of determination by the Falcons.
Part of the game plan for the Sharks, was to drive the ball toward the basket and get Fivay defense to collapse foul the ball and get the Sharks to step up to the free throw line. The Sharks finished shooting 50 percent from the free throw for the game.
As the first quarter melted down, so did the consistency of the Sharks’ defense and the Falcons were able to be in the right spot for rebounds especially the offensive rebounds for the extra chance at the basket.
As the game continued, the confidence level of the Sharks continued to look a little shaky. The ball handling once again got sloppy, the bad habit of being out of position and not boxing out for rebounds continued and then just the bad luck of a bounce made the game really uncomfortable for the Sharks.
The largest lead for the Sharks during the game was five points. Leading the offense for the Sharks was senior guard Cai Teague with 28 points. When it looked like the Sharks would go on a mini-run, the Falcon’s defense would create a turnover situation or force a bad decision by the Sharks.
“We are a young team I got one senior as you can see- we have seven man team but they all play hard,” Fivay High School basketball coach Bryan Williams said outside his jubilant locker room.
“They have a lot of heart, a lot of spirit and they do what I ask of them as long as they play like we will always have a chance.”
Giving the Falcons a chance, sophomore guard Deondrae St.Clair, led his team with 23 points and junior guard Erik Scott played defense the way Williams expected him to play. With just 17.8 seconds left in the ball game, he was in the right spot at the right time a got a beautiful pass from NCT’s Philip Scalise.
“It is almost comical at this point,” Nature Coast Tech High School basketball coach Pisarcik said. “Stuff like that just happens! He was in a situation not usually at and he is usually standing at the three point line. He dribbles and gets a little pressure on him and he turns the ball over. So credit to them.”
Pisarcik said that the idea of the basketball tournament was to bring into Brooksville some quality teams for some quality games for the community to enjoy. He said the success of the tournament has grown into two brackets and three days.
Nature Coast Tech High School will continue the test of the Seventh Annual Nature Coast Tech High School Basketball Tournament, bright and early Sunday morning, December 29, 2019 starting at 9:30 a.m.