By Chris Bernhardt Jr. | Hernando TodayThe Nature Coast Sharks certainly won't be swimming in uncharted waters when they head to Clearwater High today.
Published: December 20, 2012
Published: December 20, 2012
This marks the third straight year they have participated in the Bright House Sports Network Shootout.
But, as has been well-documented to this point, this is a different Nature Coast team than the one that nestled in among the finest in the state the past three seasons.
So far, though, the Sharks (9-1) haven't looked considerably worse.
Still, they'll truly be put to the test over the next three days at this holiday tournament – which will feature some games broadcast on Bright House Sports Network.
"We sort of have the same goals we had last year," Nature Coast head coach Dave Pisarcik said. "We want to get a district championship and we want to give ourselves an opportunity to go deep into the playoffs. We know we've got to be tested against the best competition we can find. This year's field at Clearwater is really competitive.
"Every time we go to this tournament, we know we'll see some of the best competition, and that's what we want to play against."
Aside from the Sharks, the remaining participants are: Tampa-Alonso, Tampa-Berkeley Prep, Gulfport-Boca Ciega, Clearwater, Gainesville, Mitchell and Dover-Strawberry Crest.
Nature Coast and Gainesville open the tournament today at 3:30 p.m.
How good is this tournament field?
Consider that six of the eight teams advanced to regionals last season, with Clearwater and Alonso being the exceptions.
Two of those teams, Nature Coast and Berkeley Prep, went to the Final Four in their respective classifications.
None of the squads currently sports a losing record, and the today's action actually features a battle of unbeatens: 10-0 Berkeley Prep against 9-0 Boca Ciega.
The Sharks are guaranteed to play one of those clubs, with the respective winners and losers of their game and that one facing off on Friday.
In each of the past two seasons, Nature Coast has gone 2-1 in this event.
"This year, going off what we've done so far, bottom line I want to just compete," Pisarcik said. "Win or lose, I want to take from this that we can compete with the top teams in the state.
"Teams look at Nature Coast now, last year we obviously had some very good talent. But this year, I don't know if people are considering Nature Coast a top program.
"So far we've proven Nature Coast is a top program year in and year out. We want to continue to do that the rest of the season."
The Sharks only loss came at the hands of a quality opponent in Wiregrass Ranch, 65-63, and Nature Coast blew a double-digit lead.
Otherwise they are unscathed, and they've notched a couple of notable wins over Mitchell (83-67) and Eustis (46-24).
As expected, the Sharks' lone returning starter, junior forward Rohan Blackwood, has carried the load.
Prior to last night's victory over Central, he was averaging 18.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per contest.
But he has hardly been the only threat. Senior Yamil Marrero has combined with Blackwood to create a formidable frontcourt, averaging 10.8 points and 10.3 boards.
Junior guard Carlos Clemente has provided length and athleticism, not to mention a solid outside touch, knocking down 19 3-poitners and scoring at a 10.9 per game clip.
Senior point guard Vic Davila chips 6.9 points, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals.
Another senior, Wyatt Hessler, has been an all-around contributor with averages of 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. However, an injured right ankle has kept him out of action recently, and he's doubtful to play at all this week.
"I'm happy with the way guys are competing and the way guys are playing," Pisarcik said. "We know we need to play better and at a higher level to achieve our goals.
"The team's senior leaders have taken on the role of trying to prove to people we're just as good as we were last year. We're playing well right now. We just need to play well enough to win in February."
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