As Nature Coast has become a program that regularly competes in the latter stages of the state series, the Sharks have sought out competitive holiday tournaments.
The idea has been to make the team battle-tested for the postseason, and this year the Sharks have decided to bring the battle to them.
The inaugural Nature Coast Christmas Tournament will run today, Saturday and Monday, bringing a stout field of eight squads to the local stage.
"With our goals and our expectations, we have to play with and be able to compete with the best to achieve our goals," Nature Coast head coach Dave Pisarcik said. "That's what a Christmas tournament is for, to be tested. What better way than to host a quality tournament?
'It's definitely a real quality field for our first time hosting. We're excited about that. Hopefully we'll get people from Hernando County to come out and watch."
The tournament kicks off with Tampa-Brooks-DeBartolo taking on Springstead at 1 p.m., followed by Tarpon Springs against Tampa-Jefferson at 3 p.m.
Weeki Wachee (0-9) squares off with Orlando-Jones at 5 p.m. and Nature Coast faces Lutz-Steinbrenner at 7 p.m.
All teams are guaranteed three games over the course of the event. The championship game is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.
Springstead's side of the bracket, including Brooks-DeBartolo, Jefferson and Tarpon Springs, is particularly loaded, as none of those teams have a losing record.
The Eagles come in 8-3, having already doubled their win total from last season. However, they're 3-2 in the rugged Class 6A, District 10.
"The whole goal is to keep getting better," Springstead head coach Tim Plumadore said. "Our district is tough. Any chance we get to play good teams can get us better and focused on how we have to play to beat (6A-10 foes) Largo and Mitchell."
So far the Eagles, who haven't had a winning mark since reaching the state championship game in 2008-09, are relying on their depth, led by seniors such as forward Devonte Valentin and guard Aaron Waddy.
Plumadore believes that with the amount of formidable teams in the mix, the tournament is wide open.
"It's a matter of what team makes less mistakes," Plumadore said. "We definitely play three games; we'd like to win at least two of them. Anything less than 2-1 would be a real disappointment for us.
"But as long as we compete three times and play the best we can at that moment, that's all I can ask. After this tournament, our schedule gets tougher."
For Nature Coast, this is the second holiday tournament, following last week's Bright House Holiday Tournament at Clearwater High.
The Sharks are 8-1 after going 2-1 in that prestigious event, and are currently unbeaten in 5A-7 play.
Senior guards Carlos Clemente and Jordan Burkes have stepped to the forefront as the team's leading scorers, and senior forward Rohan Blackwood paces a frontcourt that brings size and physicality.
"We understand with our schedule, we've played some big teams. We've been in some big games," Pisarcik said. "We know we have to beat that type of team later in the year in a game that could end our season.
"We're happy where we're at and we're proud of what we've accomplished so far. But we know this is just getting us ready for the playoffs."
Obviously the Sharks have an eye on a first-place showing in their own tournament, and Pisarcik believes several teams have a shot to win it.
Perhaps more importantly, Pisarcik wants to lay the groundwork for a tradition he hopes to grow in the coming years.
"The first annual Nature Coast tournament, we'd like to be able to compete for a championship," Pisarcik said. "But the main thing we want to do is have a great tournament."
At a Glance
What - Nature Coast Christmas Tournament
Who - Tampa-Brooks-DeBartolo, Tampa-Jefferson, Orlando-Jones, Nature Coast, Springstead, Lutz-Steinbrenner, Tarpon Springs and Weeki Wachee
Where - Nature Coast gym
When - Today, Saturday and Monday
Format - Guaranteed three games for all teams, with championship game scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m.