CLEARWATER — They had watched St. Petersburg’s Jordan Berenbaum score inside with ease and Danielle Daniels grab every rebound in sight.
Finally, the Clearwater Tornadoes had seen enough.
They took their stand Tuesday night, in the paint and at the rim, and wiped out an early deficit in a 47-42 region semifinal win.
The pivotal point came late in the first quarter when Clearwater trailed 14-4. Soon after, the Tornadoes’ Tyra Bolden snared an errant pass and sprinted down the floor for a layup. Alex Alford stepped beyond the arc and calmly swished a 3-pointer. Aja Jenkins battled between bodies to get in position for rebounds.
By the time the Green Devils had come to terms with it all, they had watched their lead evaporate as the Tornadoes outscored them 26-2 during a run that lasted until the third quarter.
“I thought we handled everything well,” Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “It’s tough to beat a team three times in a season, and St. Petersburg was handing it to us early on.
“But we hung on, weathered the storm, and our offense got into a rhythm.”
The Tornadoes led the entire second half but the outcome was still in doubt after St. Petersburg’s Michael Everhart hit a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to single digits. But Alford and Bolden kept driving to the lane, picking up fouls and going to the line down the stretch to end the threat.
“Honestly, I thought it might be easy because we had already beaten them twice before,” Bolden said. “But we can’t take anyone for granted. We just had to work on crashing the boards and holding them off.”
Bolden (17 points), Jenkins (16) and Alford (13) reached double digits for Clearwater. Everhart scored a team-high 13 for the Green Devils.
North Port 71, East Lake 34: The Eagles’ season came to a screeching halt against nemesis North Port. It was the fourth loss of the season to the Bobcats and East Lake’s worst loss since Jan. 9 against Clearwater (65-25). Marlyce Meredith led East Lake with 12 points and Amber Jennings added 11. East Lake (17-12) upset district top seed Palm Harbor University to reach the playoffs.