CLEARWATER — For the first 16 minutes, Clearwater recorded steals, pulled up for 3-pointers and whipped passes to its big men for layups or two-handed dunks.
It was vintage Tornado basketball, featuring a full rotation of players and their full range of qualities — daring, unselfishness and creativity — that made them the top seed in Class 5A, District 11.
Clearwater scored 62 points in the first half of Wednesday's semifinal against Tarpon Springs and threatened to top 100 before the fourth quarter. A running clock and mass substitutions prevented that in the Tornadoes' 90-56 victory.
"We played with tons of energy," Clearwater coach Allen Carden said. "I was concerned with how we came out in warm-ups. But right from the start, we were flying around and swarming to the ball."
The Tornaodes advanced to Friday's championship game and will host East Lake, which beat Seminole 39-36 in the other semifinal.
Playing mostly mistake-free in the first half, Clearwater (21-5) opened a 62-32 lead, enough to allow Carden to turn to his bench in the second half. In all, the Tornadoes had 11 players score including four (Brandon Leston, John Hogan, Okaro White and Joey Nungester) who reached double figures.
"We were very good on offense and got contributions from everyone," Carden said. "We won the first two meetings with Tarpon and I was concerned (about) a letdown. But the guys ran up and down the floor and were ready to play."
Friday's game will be a rematch of last year's final.
The Eagles (12-11) made the championship game for the second straight season with a strong second half against the Warhawks.
Trailing 23-19 at halftime, the Eagles started hitting from the outside. Joseph Nurse and Jeremy Mogged hit 3-pointers at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth to break open a close game.
Max Klein was East Lake's leading scorer with nine points. Christian Whiting led Seminole with 12.