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PALM HARBOR — This may be only the second week of the regular season, but don’t tell Clearwater or Palm Harbor University that Tuesday night’s game didn’t mean anything. They are two of the best teams in the county, and it was the Hurricanes who sent a warning.
Paced by 29 points from senior Kristine Fuller and a stingy defense, PHU suffocated Clearwater in a 70-51 win. The Hurricanes (4-0) also got scoring help from Chardonay Aldrich (16) and Megan Ingram (nine).
Clearwater was led by Alex Alford, who scored 24, including four 3-pointers. Aja Jenkins chipped in with 11 points and Tyra Bolden had 10.
“Usually Palm Harbor isn’t known as a powerhouse for girls basketball,” Fuller said. “I think this is a message to watch out because we are coming.”
That message was sent early. After a tight first quarter, the Hurricanes took off in the second. With the score 20-15 after an Alford basket, PHU went on an 11-0 run thanks to Clearwater turnovers and missed layups. Fuller had nine of the 11 points during the spurt.
The lead stretched to 39-22 at the half.
The Hurricanes kept up the pressure, extending the lead to as much as 20 at the start of the third quarter. With Alford draining 3s and Bolden making layups, Clearwater tried to hang close.
The Tornadoes (1-1) made an 8-0 run with five minutes remaining to cut the lead to 59-47, but PHU went on a 7-0 run shortly after and put the game away.
“We were flat, but congratulations to them,” Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “They were ready for us and they took it to us in every facet.”
PHU coach Darian Dublin had a feeling before the season that his team might do big things.
“I’ve been here seven years and this is a special team,” Dublin said. “When we play hard we can play with the best of them, and we showed that. This is a good feeling. We keep playing like this and I could do this for the next 30 years.”