CLEARWATER — His team was uncharacteristically sloppy, its offensive execution subpar and foul shooting dreadful, but as Clearwater coach Allen Carden headed to the locker room at the half Tuesday with the Tornadoes trailing Gibbs by a point, he remained confident.
"I told them, 'Don't panic, we're going to go on a run,' " Carden said.
That run came, but not until the final quarter, when Clearwater used a 12-1 spurt, keyed by two Cory Carden 3-pointers, to defeat the Gladiators 63-46 in the Class 5A region semis.
"They're the most talented team in the county," Allen Carden said of Gibbs. "This is an excellent win."
Shooting guard Joey Nungester led the Tornadoes (24-5) with 18 points while center Okaro White added 13 and point guard Cory Carden had 11. White, an FSU commit, was scoreless in the first half as Gibbs (20-7) came out with great energy early, particularly on defense.
"We were playing their game," Cory Carden said. "A little too much one on one and not enough spreading the floor. And they were contesting every shot."
Gibbs led 16-15 at the break.
Clearwater's offense improved greatly in the third quarter, but Gibbs, which got 14 points from small forward Ke'Owen Walker, wouldn't go away. The second of back-to-back jumpers by guard Gary Simon put Gibbs ahead 29-27 with 3:32 left in the third.
A White layup quickly tied it at 29 and Clearwater held a 38-34 lead The gap was four when Cory Carden drained a 3 from the left wing with 6:51 to go, and 31 seconds later he connected again, moving the margin to 10. Gibbs never recovered.
"Those (baskets) were huge," Allen Carden said.