DADE CITY - When Nature Coast defeated Pasco a couple weeks ago, Lady Sharks head coach Emily Gore cautioned things could be different the next time.
The Lady Pirates figured to be emboldened by the home-court advantage they'd enjoy hosting the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament.
In Friday night's championship tilt, those words proved prophetic.
Second-seeded Pasco came out of the gate energized and held on just long enough to defeat top-seeded Nature Coast, 67-65.
"Pasco, they're on their home court. They wanted this game," Gore said. "When we beat them on our home court, that made them want this so much more.
"For it to be a two-point game, I'm happy with our effort. We know we missed some plays out on the court. But our season's not over, so now we prepare for the next step."
It was Tranisha Harmon's basket with 16 seconds left that ended up being the game-winner, but so much had led up to that point, and the game wasn't over yet.
The Lady Sharks (19-4) turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, though they got the ball right back thanks to a steal by Latavea Sesler.
That resulted in two failed layup attempts as Nature Coast's final efforts fell short.
"It's disappointing," Gore said. "That was a crazy fourth quarter, but we got a perfect look right at the end and we just missed it.
"I thought in the fourth quarter we just played really shaky. I also think that Pasco made some good shots, some big shots in the fourth quarter.
"We were in early foul trouble coming out of halftime, so they were in the bonus late in the game. That hurt us a little bit, too. We came out and we were fouling, we were putting them on the free throw line and we talked so much about not doing that."
Having lost on this same court on Dec. 6, 58-49, the Lady Sharks appeared out of sorts early.
Their top player, junior center Rita Jarque, started the game on the bench after missing practice due to illness the day before.
She would enter the game at 6:10 in the first quarter for guard Mirandas Jones, who had picked up her second foul.
Harmon scored eight points while dominating the glass in that opening period, and Pasco (19-9) raced out a 23-12 lead after one.
"It was huge," Pasco head coach Troy Moore said of the initial surge. "It gave us that momentum to carry over. We knew that we could score and compete against Nature Coast. They're a quality team and they can score that ball, there's no doubt about that. So we knew if we could score points and answer them that, hey, we're in this ballgame."
Nature Coast started the second quarter on a 12-2 run to trim the deficit to one, 25-24, with 5:20 to go in the half.
Jarque's putback at the horn gave the Lady Sharks a 37-34 edge at intermission. Harris already had 11 points and Mirandas Jones 10.
"Pasco came out with a press and we haven't seen that from them yet," Gore said. "We talked about it, expected it, expected it, expected it, but they haven't done that to us yet. So it took us a little bit to settle down.
"Mirandas got in early foul trouble; that affected us a little bit because it took one of our better ball-handlers off the floor. But I thought when she came in in the second quarter, she was the difference. She came off the bench, gave us a huge spark. She just plays with so much energy and so much effort. If the other four could play with that energy and effort we would be a scary-good team."
The Lady Pirates came out in the third quarter much like they did in the first, and limited Nature Coast to seven points in the period, building a 47-44 lead heading into the fourth.
Micaiah Young's 3-pointer with just over three minutes to go pushed Pasco in front by seven, 61-54.
Still the Lady Sharks rallied back within a point, making it 63-62 when Mirandas Jones knocked down a shot from beyond the arc with 1:30 left.
Fatima Jones then picked off a pass and drove to the basket for a potential go-ahead bucket. Instead, Brianca Roberts came up with a tremendous block.
Roberts found Young for a layup on the other end, but Harris knocked down a 3-pointer to tie matters at 65 as 32 seconds showed on the clock.
Roberts corralled an offensive rebound off a missed free throw eight seconds later, leading to Harmon's go-ahead shot.
Roberts had 22 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Harmon tallied 19 points, 15 boards, four steals and two blocks, and Young notched 16 points.
"We shored up our defense," Moore said. "Last time we played them we allowed them to attack and penetrate gaps. They were getting easy run-outs, too; transition points where they got a bunch of them.
"They pushed the ball. We didn't hustle back. So we focused on 'Hey, let's get back, let's play good defense, let's close our gaps and let's make them make jump shots from the outside.'"
Harris paced Nature Coast in scoring with 20 points, to go along with five rebounds and two steals. Jarque added 18 points, 15 rebounds and three steals.
Mirandas Jones totaled 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, Fatima Jones seven steals, five rebounds and five assists, and Sesler eight points and five steals.
Nature Coast will travel to 5A-8 champ Gulf for Thursday's 5A-Region II quarterfinals at 7 p.m.
"We go back to work on Monday, " Gore said. "We learn from our mistakes and we get hungry. We haven't lost since the Christmas tournament, so I hope that this was something that we needed to maybe make us that much more hungry."
Also, Hernando Christian Academy will be in action Thursday, visiting Academy at the Lakes for a 2A-Region II quarterfinal at 7 p.m.
The Lady Lions (10-15) fell to host St. Petersburg-Keswick Christian in Friday's 2A-8 finale, 45-11.
Pasco 67, Nature Coast 65
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
PAS 23 11 13 20 - 67
NCT 12 25 7 21 - 65
Pasco (67): Bodi 2 0-0 4, Harmon 8 3-7 19, Webster 2 2-5 6, B. Roberts 7 6-8 22, Young 6 1-2 16, Pope 0, S. Roberts 0, Gilbert 0, Chambers 0. Totals 25 12-22 67.
Nature Coast (65): Harris 6 6-9 20, Sesler 4 0-0 8, Jarman 0, F. Jones 1 1-2 3, M. Jones 5 3-5 16, Jarque 8 2-3 18, Liles 0, Hurtado 0, Tyson 0. Totals 24 12-19 65.
Three-point field goals: PAS 5 (Young 3, B. Roberts 2); NCT 5 (M. Jones 3, Harris 2).
Total fouls: PAS 15; NCT 15.
Technical fouls: none.
Fouled out: none.
Records: Pasco (19-9), Nature Coast (19-4).
Class 5A, District 7 Tournament
No. 2 Pasco 51, No. 7 Weeki Wachee 11
No. 4 Central 60, No. 5 Zephyrhills 26
No. 3 Hernando 48, No. 6 Wesley Chapel 23
No. 1 Nature Coast 65, Central 49
Pasco 42, Hernando 34
Pasco 67, Nature Coast 65