EAST LAKE — An unorthodox pre-game warmup may have led to Joey Nungester's 32 points in Clearwater's 78-58 win over Tarpon Springs in the Class 5A, District 11 final Friday.
"I have to tell this story," Clearwater coach Allen Carden said. "(Nungester) was late to our shoot around and I made him run until he was dead tired. He says to me, 'Coach, how am I going to play, I am dead tired.' I said you either run or you don't get to play. He ran and look what he goes out and does. Don't you think I am going to run him before every game now?"
After only four points in the first quarter, Nungester shot the lights out the rest of the way, including an 8-of-9 performance from the line and two 3-pointers in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I came in with confidence knowing that we would win this district championship," Nungester said. "Those 3s at the end really iced it."
In addition to praising his offensive feats, Carden also lauded his defensive effort. Playing in man to man, Nungester was in coverage with Tarpon Springs' all-time leading scorer, CJ Bargman, for the majority of the game. Bargman was held scoreless in the second half, finishing with just five points.
The Spongers held a one-point lead after the first quarter and were only down by six at the half. In the second half, however, the Tornadoes recommitted to slowing Tarpon's fast break and driving to the basket quickly and aggressively. And again, Nungester led the charge.
"The biggest thing was that he executed our game plan," Carden said. "We wanted to take the ball to the hole and he took it to the hole every time."