BROOKSVILLE - Over a month ago in early December, Pasco planted itself atop the Class 5A, District 7 girls basketball standings with a 58-49 win over Nature Coast.
A much different script played out Tuesday night.
Unlike that Dec. 6 night in Dade City, the host Lady Sharks dominated most of the way, displaying crisp offensive play and commanding the paint en route to a 55-40 triumph.
"I think it gives us a different kind of confidence that we haven't had this season," Nature Coast head coach Emily Gore said. "But at the same time this is a win on our home court. We know we've got to travel to Pasco and play them there next time (in the district tournament) and that's just a whole different ballgame. Teams play so much better at home."
The Lady Sharks (16-3 overall, 10-1 5A-7) will at least go into that 5A-7 Tournament, the week of Jan. 27 at Pasco (13-8 overall, 8-2 5A-7), as the top seed.
That was assured thanks to this win combined with Hernando defeating Zephyrhills on Tuesday night.
Why did the Lady Leopards' victory have an impact? It goes back to Central's upset of the Lady Pirates a week earlier.
At best, Pasco can now only finish tied with Nature Coast, which has one more district contest at Zephyrhills on Friday.
With head-to-head deadlocked, the second tiebreaker comes into play: best record versus the highest-seeded district team, and proceeding through the lowest-seeded team.
Zephyrhills' loss to Hernando assures it cannot finish above Central in the 5A-7 standings.
Thus, regardless of Friday's outcome, the Lady Sharks would hold that second tiebreaker over the Lady Pirates by virtue of having a better record (2-0) versus the Lady Bears.
"We were comfortable with the one or the two seed," Gore said. "We felt that's where we should be going into the season. But you want to be the one seed. That's a good place to be. But that just makes Pasco that much hungrier."
Nature Coast actually found itself in an early 7-1 hole, perhaps partly because its starting backcourt, cousins Fatima and Mirandas Jones, began the game on the bench.
Fatima is still getting back in the swing of things after a concussion sidelined her for much of the holiday break.
Mirandas was returning from a two-game suspension after getting hit with two technical fouls in the Jan. 4 win over Plant City during the Hernando Holiday Classic.
Both entered early in the first quarter and immediately made their presence felt. They combined to score all 16 of their points in the first half.
Mirandas Jones scored 10 points to go along with five assists. Fatima Jones chipped in six points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Those two helped key a 21-3 run between the first and second quarters that essentially put the game away. The Lady Sharks carried a 34-16 lead into the intermission.
"They were a spark for us off the bench," Gore said. "I was hoping it would be that way and that's the way it was. They work so well together. Fatima makes our team so much better and so does Mirandas, too, in a lot of ways."
They were particularly sharp finding Rita Jarque around the basket. The junior center continued her stellar season, scoring 16 points and pulling down 20 rebounds.
"It's like a triangle between us," Jarque said. "When they drive in, they always drive it to the opposite side so they know that I'm always open. So it's easy for me to get a shot just because they're taking care of their part of the play.
"We just kept our head in the game. We all work together. We were all intense, we were all pumped and motivated because they're the best team in the district and we all wanted to beat them."
Emmalee Harris had a solid all-around game with nine points, six rebounds and two steals.
Pasco was paced by Brianca Roberts with 14 points and three steals, Jordyn Bodi (10 points, two steals) and Tranisha Harmon (nine points, nine rebounds, two steals).
"It was a shaky first few minutes," Gore said. "I think we had six turnovers before we put up two shots. But the girls did bounce back very well. They settled in a little bit and they played great the rest of the way through.
"They played a great game offensively after that little rough start, but I thought our defense was the difference. We had a game plan going into it. I thought our girls did really well with that game plan."
Nature Coast 55, Pasco 40
Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4
PAS 10 6 7 17 - 40
NCT 11 23 13 8 - 55
Pasco (40): Bodi 4 2-4 10, Harmon 3 2-4 9, Webster 2 0-0 4, B. Roberts 6 1-2 14, Young 0, Pope 1 0-0 2, S. Roberts 0 1-2 1, Gilbert 0, Chambers 0. Totals 16 6-12 40.
Nature Coast (55): Harris 2 5-8 9, Liles 0, Jarque 7 2-9 16, Hurtado 2 0-0 5, Sesler 2 2-4 7, M. Jones 4 0-0 10, F. Jones 2 2-2 6, Jarman 1 0-0 2, Tyson 0, Garcia 0, Eberts 0. Totals 20 11-23 55.
Three-point field goals: PAS 2 (B. Roberts, Harmon); NCT 4 (M. Jones 2, Sesler, Hurtado).
Total fouls: PAS 15; NCT 12.
Technical fouls: M. Jones (NCT).
Fouled out: Webster (PAS), M. Jones (NCT).
Records: Pasco (13-8 overall, 8-2 5A-7), Nature Coast (16-3 overall, 10-1 5A-7).