With Christmas break underway, it was a short week for Hernando County’s prep sports teams. Most of the action took place at Hernando High, where several local boys and girls basketball squads gathered for the three-day Hernando Holiday Classic.
For most it was simply a matter of gaining experience against tougher competition, but the Nature Coast girls became unlikely headliners by winning their first two contests and finishing as the runners-up. “This exceeded our expectations,” Nature Coast head coach Emily Gore said. "I’ve told a couple different people, I brought a team here last year that was expected to go play in the Final Four and we didn’t find a way to get into the final. So we’re very happy about what we did here in this tournament.”
The Lady Sharks (6-9) struggled through the early portion of the season before wins over Weeki Wachee and Springstead in the week leading up to the tournament. On Monday, Nature Coast downed South Sumter, 53-39, and followed with a victory over host Hernando on Tuesday, 30-22. In Wednesday’s finale, Gainesville-Oak Hall defeated the Lady Sharks, 52-31. Latavea Sesler had 14 points and Kayla Langley 13 rebounds in the championship game for Nature Coast. Langley also tallied 14 points against Hernando. “Overall just proud of the girls. They kept fighting, they kept working,” Gore said. “Obviously Oak Hall is a very good team. They got a very talented player in (Nadiria Evans). They’re well-coached. They’re a very disciplined group of girls. “Could we have played better? Absolutely. There were some moments where we had just way too many turnovers and that just really hurt us.”
Central topped Hernando in the third-place matchup, 28-24, having won over Zephyrhills on Monday, 60-9, and losing to Oak Hall on Tuesday, 54-29. The Lady Leopards (6-9) notched a 39-35 Monday triumph over Fivay before falling to two straight county rivals.
Springstead (11-4) lost in overtime to Oak Hall on Monday, 63-60, then bounced back for a 45-20 win over Zephyrhills on Tuesday and 53-39 victory over South Sumter on Wednesday.
Nature Coast’s boys (10-3) ended up going 1-2, losing to Lakeland-George Jenkins on Monday, 54-38, and Seffner-Armwood on Wednesday, 57-30, sandwiching a 65-45 victory over Pasco on Tuesday. Hernando (5-7) went 0-3, getting knocked off by Gibsonton-East Bay on Monday, 55-25, followed by losing 44-19 to Armwood on Tuesday and 67-50 to George Jenkins on Wednesday.
Springstead’s boys (4-7) ended up 0-3 at Ridgewood’s Rotary Ram Classic, going down to Orlando-Timber Creek on Monday, 77-33, Ridgewood on Tuesday, 67-63, and Land O’ Lakes on Wednesday, 63-51. Michael Flores had 20 points, six rebounds and two steals in the final game. Julian Louis totaled 20 points, six boards and a steal versus Ridgewood.
On Dec. 19, the Springstead wrestling team captured first place at the Bulldog Brawl in St. Cloud. The Eagles went 7-1 in the dual tournament, with Tommy Barker at 106 and Richie Rivera at 113 each going 8-0.