TAMPA — Clearwater, sparked by eight points each from Alex Alford and Emma Loucks in the fourth quarter, overcame a 14-point deficit to stun defending Class 3A state champion Tampa Catholic 41-37 on Saturday.
After three quarters it looked as though the Crusaders would cruise to a comfortable victory. Tampa Catholic’s Meghan Keough knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Crusaders a comfortable 32-18 lead at the end of the third.
Tampa Catholic turned ice cold, however, just as Clearwater began playing its best basketball of the night. The Tornadoes, who were just 2-of-17 from the field in the first half, outscored Tampa Catholic 16-2 in the fourth quarter and tied at 34.
The teams exchanged 3-pointers to make the score 37-all, but the Tornadoes took their first lead of the game, 38-37, with 1:53 left on a free throw by Loucks.
Tampa Catholic, missing offensive standout Micah Kroll, was overwhelmed late by Clearwater’s size and aggressive defense. The Crusaders mustered only six shots in the fourth and were unable to mount a comeback.
Loucks, who went 5-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter, led all scorers with 16 points. Keough’s 12 led Tampa Catholic.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to pull it out,” Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “Non-conference game, non-district game, but a very good opponent, and they made us push and execute to pull a game out on the road.”