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When stars collide

After crashing into Nature Coast's best player, Hudson standout Jarrod Branco is sidelined with a shoulder injury.

By DAVID MURPHY and IZZY GOULD
Published January 9, 2007


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The collision occurred in the third quarter of a 12-point game, with Nature Coast employing a newly installed full-court trap and Hudson trying desperately to break it.

A pass was thrown, two bodies converged and a split second later two star players lay crumpled on the court.

This was Friday night. Nature Coast went on to win 72-67, but focus quickly turned to the downed players and how their injuries will impact Class 4A, District 8.

On Monday, Cobras star Jarrod Branco was still nursing a sore right shoulder, injured when he and Nature Coast star Joe Silvestri slammed into each other going for a ball at midcourt.

Branco got up quickly and a trainer quickly patched a cut on his head. He missed Saturday's 51-31 drubbing by Santa Fe Catholic and was doubtful for tonight's game against Gulf, Hudson coach Jason Vetter said.

"I don't think he'll go," Vetter said. "He could barely lift his arm in practice."

Silvestri attended a Nature Coast practice Monday, but spent most of his time dribbling around a gym, a broken collarbone rendering his left hand useless. The Sharks' undisputed leader will likely will miss the rest of the season as a result of the nasty collision.

Silvestri spent a couple of hours at the hospital Friday night, getting 10 stitches in his face and listening to a doctor confirm what he had suspected: Broken left nonshooting clavicle. Four to six weeks. Season over.

"I had a feeling it was broken," said Silvestri, who was treated at Spring Hill Regional. "The whole time I was in the waiting room, the only thing I was worried about what how long am I going to be out. Is it going to be the season? Can I come back at all?"

The turn of events was cruel, particularly for two players who had finally established themselves as a bona fide stars.

Branco led the Cobras (4-10) to an upset of St. Petersburg Catholic last month and was the leading scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game. It's clear his absence had an impact on Saturday's loss.

"They had an emotional game at Nature Coast and they worked their tails off," Vetter said. "...I'm going to throw that off as one bad day."

Nature Coast entered the game against Hudson having won 12 of its first 15 games, and Silvestri was the primary reason. A junior guard with floppy brown hair, he was averaging 11.3 points per game and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, but his value can only partly be quantified through statistics.

"Somebody like Joe, you can't replace him," Nature Coast coach Travis Priddy said. "He does so much stuff for us, offensively and defensively. He gets us organized, gets us settled.

"He's another coach on the floor. You're not going to replace that. It's going to be a test. ...it's a devastating blow."

Silvestri's next X-ray is in 20 days. If all goes right - if the fracture heals faster than expected and he is able to shake off the effect of ignoring his left arm for a month - he thinks maybe he could be back in time for the district tournament.

But Priddy doesn't think so, and Silvestri admits it's a long shot. He is also a pitcher and he doesn't want to endanger his spring sports season as well.

"It wasn't a good play for either one of the schools," Priddy said. "I think we took the worst of it."

David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1407. Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@sptimes.com or (727) 580-5315.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 07:44:43]


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