Lakeland, Gaither take Nature Coast Christmas Crown
By: Danny Aiello Jr
Before the New Year holiday break, the Nature Coast Christmas Tournament wrapped up crowning two champions. In arguably the best 16-team field the tournament has seen, each eight-team bracket wrapped up play Wednesday, with Gaither and Lakeland taking their respective bracket crowns.
In the first bracket, Wiregrass Ranch met Gaither for the third time this season, with the two schools having split the previous meetings.
Gaither, sporting a seven-player squad, knocked off Wiregrass 65-60 to claim the crown in an action packed contest.
Trevor Blackmon finished with 25 points and five rebounds for the Cowboys, earning him MVP honors.
In the second bracket, a tough Shaker Heights (Ohio) team met the defending champion Lakeland Dreadnaughts.
Lakeland would dig a big hole, trailing 51-43 at the end of the third quarter, before rallying back in the game of the night.
After forcing overtime it would be all Dreadnaughts, as Lakeland pulled away winning 84-75, claiming back-to-back tournament titles.
The third place games saw Wesley Chapel beat Nature Coast 42-35, and Medina beat Bowsher 73-46.
7th/8th Place – Gulf Breeze 61, Hernando 46.
5th/6th Place – Countryside 53, Land O’Lakes 47.
3rd/4th Place – Wesley Chapel 42, Nature Coast 35.
Championship – Gaither 65, Wiregrass Ranch 60.
7th/8th Place – Steinbrenner 51, Zephyrhills 48.
5th/6th Place – Alonso 70, Eastbay 53.
3rd/4th Place – Medina 73, Bowsher 46.
Championship – Lakeland 84, Shaker Heights 75 (OT).