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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

NCT knocks off Central in 5A-7 semis


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DADE CITY - Nature Coast looked the part of a top seed - for the most part - and assured a return to regionals with a victory Wednesday night.

Taking on a county rival, fourth-seeded Central, in the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament semifinals at Pasco High, the Lady Sharks led wire-to-wire in a 65-49 victory.

Nature Coast (19-3) will take on second-seeded Pasco (18-9) in Friday's final at 7 p.m., and will play in next Thursday's regional quarterfinals.

The host Lady Pirates defeated third-seeded Hernando in Friday's late semifinal, 42-34.

"It's a good accomplishment for this team," said Nature Coast head coach Emily Gore about her team's second regional berth in three seasons, and eighth overall. "After last season getting bounced early in the district tournament, this is where we wanted to be.

"After going 18-3 you kind of expect that, to be in the playoffs. We feel like we can play with anybody, but we just have to play our best from here on out. We can't have letdowns."

Nature Coast raced out to a 13-0 lead before Central (13-13) finally dented the scoreboard on an Evelyn Anderson 3-pointer at the 3:50 mark of the first quarter.

The Lady Sharks had doubled up the Lady Bears by halftime, carrying a 32-16 lead into the locker room, with Rita Jarque totaling 16 points and eight rebounds.

Evelyn Anderson (10 points) and Jakaila Hill (six points) accounted for all of Central's scoring over the opening two periods.

The Lady Bears managed to pull within 10, 54-44, on Desiree McGee's coast-to-coast layup with 2:31 left.

After Fatima Jones found Mirandas Jones for a basket at the other end, Latavea Sesler stole the ball at midcourt and shoveled it to Mirandas Jones for another hoop.

Then Fatima Jones picked a Lady Bear pocket and took it in for her own layup, pushing the advantage to 60-44 with 1:45 remaining.

"Fantastic first half; thought we came out a little flat in the second half," Gore said. "Maybe it was cause we had a big lead, we thought we were going to cruise in the second half. But you've got to give Central a lot of credit, they're a good team. They're going to come out and play strong, they're not just going to late down and die.

"We picked it up a little bit in the fourth quarter. Got in the black and did some full-court pressure and that worked well for us. We got some layups off that. Luckily we were in the bonus late so we got some free throw opportunities. But Central came out and had a great second half, and I think you just have to give them a lot of credit."

Jarque finished with 31 points, 18 rebounds and four steals. Mirandas Jones added 15 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, along with five boards, five assists and two steals.

Anderson had 26 points, five rebounds and five steals for Central, while McGee scored all nine of her points in the fourth and hauled in 10 rebounds to go with five assists. Hill chipped in eight points and four steals.

"I told them we had to pick it up on defense because we were having a difficult time putting the ball in the basket," Central head coach Penny Gressick said. "We acted like we were a little timid, scared, I'm not sure. But we settled down and at least made a game of it.

"My goal was to come in here and be competitive, and we were in this game coming down in the fourth quarter."

? ? ?

In the second contest, the Lady Leopards (16-10) got in front early, but with the Lady Pirates holding an 11-9 edge at 3:58 in the second quarter, Arianna Tankersley picked up her third foul.

Instead of folding without its best player, who had already scored seven points in the game, Hernando actually regained the lead.

Jaziana Mathis, who had seven points in the quarter, scored on a putback as time expired, making it 19-15 Lady Leopards at halftime.

However, Pasco's top scorer, point guard Brianca Roberts, busted out in a big way in the third following a surprisingly scoreless first half.

Roberts scored 12 points in the period, as the Lady Pirates went on a 13-0 run that extended into the fourth and built a 34-25 advantage.

"I just think she started attacking more," Hernando head coach Kevin Bittinger said. "We knew she created all sort of matchup problems. And we got a little lazy on defense there. She just was able to take it to the hole, wasn't settling for jump shots, and that's what good players do.

"We did a good job controlling the tempo (in the first half). It was good defense; and the rebounding, the numbers weren't there but I think we did a good job of trying to just keep it at bay as best we could."

Down the stretch Hernando simply couldn't muster enough offense to mount a comeback.

Tankersley finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals. TaShara Owens contributed seven rebounds, three assists and four steals, and Tyshea McRae tacked on eight rebounds.

Roberts had 15 points, four assists and two steals, and Ashley Webster 16 points, 16 rebounds and two steals for Pasco, who split with Nature Coast in the regular season, winning 58-49 on Dec. 6 in Dade City.

"We know that if we play a quality game that we can compete with them," Pasco head coach Troy Moore said. "We have some girls who have some experience, who went to the regional finals last year. They understand what it takes when you get to this level. They understand that every basket is going to be critical.

"You're going to have moments like this where you don't score a basket; your top scorer's not scoring. You've just got to battle through these moments. In the end you got to be able to allow that experience to overcome those tough situations."

(352) 544-5288

Nature Coast 65, Central 49

Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4

CEN 6 10 14 19 - 49

NCT 17 15 12 21 - 65

Central (49): Anderson 10 2-2 26, C. Lewis 2 2-2 6, McGee 3 3-7 9, Hill 3 2-2 8, Evans 0, Gray 0, Aldrich 0. Totals 18 9-13 49.

Nature Coast (65): Harris 3 1-2 8, Sesler 1 1-3 3, Jarque 13 5-7 31, F. Jones 4 0-0 8, M. Jones 6 3-6 15, Liles 0, Hurtado 0, Tyson 0, Jarman 0. Totals 27 10-18 65.

Three-point field goals: CEN 4 (Anderson 4); NCT 1 (Harris).

Total fouls: CEN 15; NCT 14.

Technical fouls: none.

Fouled out: none.

Records: Central (13-13), Nature Coast (19-3).

Pasco 42, Hernando 34

Qtr. Scoring 1 2 3 4

HER 9 10 6 9 - 34

PAS 7 8 17 10 - 42

Hernando (34): Harvey 0, McRae 2 1-2 5, Tankersley 6 3-4 15, Owens 0, Brady 2 0-0 5, Mathis 3 1-1 7, Hudson 1 0-0 2, Laing 0, Neblock 0. Totals 14 5-7 34.

Pasco (42): Bodi 1 0-0 2, Harmon 1 0-0 2, Webster 6 4-10 16, B. Roberts 7 1-4 15, Young 3 1-2 7, Gilbert 0. Totals 18 6-16 42.

Three-point field goals: HER 1 (Brady); PAS 0.

Total fouls: HER 13; PAS 9.

Technical fouls: none.

Fouled out: none.

Records: Hernando (16-10), Pasco (18-9).

Class 5A, District 7 Tournament

at Pasco


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



Nature Coast vs. Pasco, 7 p.m.

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