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CLEARWATER — Playing its third game in four days, Clearwater got something it needed Friday night: A resounding win against a district rival.
The Tornadoes played their most complete game of the season in a 71-44 victory over Pinellas Park.
“There’s no doubt this is the best game we’ve played all year,” Clearwater coach Allen Carden said. “I wondered how we would come out after playing so many games this week, but we came out and played with a lot of energy.”
The tough stretch for the Tornadoes included two losses at home, both decided by five points or less. Friday’s game was against a Patriots team that had beaten Clearwater by 12 last month.
This time there were no close calls as the Tornadoes used their height advantage to dominate on the boards and jump out to a big lead.
Clearwater (8-8) led 17-8 by the end of the first quarter. Everything seemed to be going the Tornadoes’ way, including Maurice Murphy’s buzzer-beating shot that ricocheted off the back of the rim, bounced high and swished for a 3-pointer to give Clearwater a 35-20 lead at halftime.
But in the third quarter the Tornadoes really started to pull away, thanks to a breakaway offense that was able to score transition baskets. Clearwater had those opportunities because it was careful with the ball, committing just 10 turnovers. And the Tornadoes outrebounded Pinellas Park 36-25.
Clearwater led 58-28 going into the fourth quarter and was able to empty its bench. The final five minutes became testy with four technical fouls.
All 12 Tornado players scored, including Ryan Ramirez (15 points) and Matt Misner (10), the only two to reach double figures for Clearwater.
Iman Smith and Corey Edwards each had nine to lead the Patriots (7-9).
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Tornadoes that extended to last week’s tournament at Ridgewood.
“This is something we needed,” Carden said. “We’ve had some really tough, hard-nosed games that have come down to the end. The kids were disappointed in the way we’ve played and the outcomes.
“It was good for us to be able to jump out quick and get everybody in. This could be a game that could jump-start our season.”