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CLEARWATER — From the opening tipoff Friday in the Class 7A-10 district final, Clearwater had one objective: Get the ball underneath as early and often as possible. While it took some time, the Tornadoes’ frenetic pace eventually wore down St. Petersburg 43-36.
Aja Jenkins was Clearwater’s main scoring threat, finishing with 21 points, all on layups or free throws. Javon McTier and Alex Alford were effective inside as well, scoring eight each. The district championship is Clearwater’s sixth straight and 17th in 18 years.
“We were able to get to the basket,” Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. “We got some open outside looks, but I’m not sure that’s going to win it for us. We felt like we needed to try to get to the basket as much as we could.”
St. Petersburg’s fullcourt press was working for much of the first half as the Green Devils (13-10) were forcing turnovers. Jordan Berenbaum hit a 3-pointer with just seconds left in the second quarter to give St. Petersburg a 20-16 halftime lead.
But Clearwater (21-6) kept pounding the ball inside in the second half. The Tornadoes attempted 29 free throws while St. Petersburg had only six. Up by just a point with three minutes left, Clearwater put together a run thanks to four Alford free throws and a Jenkins layup that made the score 41-34.
“I did my thing, but actually I didn’t expect to do this well,” Jenkins said. “Coach was bickering at me, saying how much he needed me. I’m just happy I got it done.”
The Green Devils were led by Berenbaum, who scored 12. Deja Swinton and Michael Everhart each had eight.