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Boys basketball: Clearwater 80, Tarpon Springs 76

CLEARWATER — Monday seemed like the perfect time for Clearwater coach Allen Carden to scream, stomp his feet and throw his hands in the air.

The Tornadoes were down by double digits at halftime to Tarpon Springs, a team that beat them the week before and was on the verge of gaining the inside track toward the No. 1 seed in Class 5A, District 11 and a berth in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game.

Yet Carden was undisturbed.

He kept the faith, and his team practiced all that he preached. It played air-tight defense, made crisp passes on offense and Carden pushed every button but the one marked "panic."

Ending two weeks of frustration, Clearwater rallied with a remarkable fourth quarter to win 80-76. The teams split their regular-season series and are tied atop of the district and north division conference standings.

"I was calm at halftime," Carden said. "I think the big thing was our kids grew up a lot tonight. We could have folded, but they all hung in there. This could be a stepping stone for our season."

The Spongers (13-5), led by big men C.J. Bargman and C.J. Mackey, scored 22 points in each of the first three quarters.

The Tornadoes (12-5) trailed 67-53 within the first minute of the fourth quarter.

Then things changed. Clearwater guard Dionta Hubbard hit two open jumpers. Teammates Jon Hogan and Joey Nungester each scored on layups.

In a three-minute span, the Tornadoes went on a 19-4 run to take a 72-71 lead. They led the rest of the way by hitting free throws and limiting Bargman and Mackey around the basket.

"We started scoring and wore them down a little," Carden said. "And that was the best we've played on defense for one quarter all season."

Hogan scored 26 points and Nungester had 21 to lead Clearwater. Bargman had 25 points and Mackey 24 for the Spongers.

"We played a great game for 28 minutes," Tarpon Springs coach James Margarella said. "But give credit to Clearwater. They basically took it from us."

Boys basketball: Clearwater 80, Tarpon Springs 76 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 7:54am]

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