Sharks survive Pirates’ wrath, escape with treasure of victory

Photography by Cheryl Clanton

Going into this season, a critical question for the Nature Coast varsity basketball team was whether they could continue their legacy in this county. The legacy in question stems from the Sharks obtaining a regional tournament berth since skipper Dave Pisarcik took the helm.

If Tuesday’s game had any say in this season, better buckle up because there’s going to be an exciting thrill ride this year.

Taking their skills up north to Crystal River, the Sharks (1-0) saw a nine-point lead in the third quarter quickly vanish due to some costly personnel mistakes, but held on to stun the host Pirates, 48-45. Crystal River had a chance to tie the game and send this entertaining matchup to overtime, but a last second three-pointer by Zachary O’Callaghan had a little too much power and sailed long.

As a team, Nature Coast shot 14 of 26 from the field (53 percent), with 4 of 18 from long range (22 percent). Crystal River as a unit shot 12 of 25 from the field (48 percent), and 6 of 19 from long range (32 percent). Shots from the charity stripe were also critical, as the Sharks shot 67 percent (8 of 12), while Crystal River shot 75 percent (3 of 4).

On the side of Nature Coast, the visiting team primarily had two members of their team, senior starting guards Robert McAfee and Austin Rivera, take most of the overall jump shots. McAfee went 5 of 11 from the field and only made one of his six three-point attempts. Conversely, Rivera was perfect on his only shot from the field, but went 2 of 7 from long range. McAfee also was the predominant shooter from the charity stripe for NCT, and he converted on 6 of his 10 attempts.

FILE PHOTO: Nature Coast guard Austin Rivera attemps to dribble past Alonso's Christian De Leon in 2016 Christmas Tourney.

For Crystal River (1-2), their team played with heart and guts, not wanting to just hand over a free win to a team from the neighboring county. Led by Cayden Gunter, who went 4 of 9 from the field and 50 percent from long distance (3 of 6), the Pirates fought tooth and nails throughout the entire contest, yet the team didn’t obtain their first lead until a layup with 7:12 left in the fourth quarter. From there, the teams essentially were like track and field runners coming down the final stretch of the 400-meter relay, and Nature Coast made just enough plays to edge out a win.

Sharks head coach Dave Pisarcik, who has arguably one of the better track records in county history, was satisfied with the win, but he gave Crystal River a lot of credit. “Coming into this game, we knew that Crystal River was well coached, and this is one of the better teams they’ve put out against us, so to come out here and win, we’re very fortunate.” Pisarcik also admitted that the game easily could’ve gotten away from them, admitting that “We kind of settled for some shots and went away from the original game plan in the third (quarter), and when you’re making shot in the first half but not the second half, you’ve got to figure out something that will work.”

For Nature Coast, their schedule is packed over the next two weeks. To close out this week, the team travelled to Weeki Wachee on Thursday night for a matchup with the Hornets. In said matchup, the Sharks continued asserting their dominance over the county, thoroughly defeating Weeki Wachee 63-16, improving their overall record and district record to 2-0. Following that matchup, they return home on Tuesday for a three game homestand. Those matchups: a district matchup on December 5th versus Citrus, December 6th versus Fivay, and another district matchup on December 8th versus Hernando.