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Boys basketball region preview: Clearwater hopes to push pace against Venice

Okaro White, coming up with the ball, guides the Tornadoes in the post, along with Julien Sargent. Clearwater will be challenged by a Venice squad that likes to slow the game down.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Okaro White, coming up with the ball, guides the Tornadoes in the post, along with Julien Sargent. Clearwater will be challenged by a Venice squad that likes to slow the game down.

CLEARWATER — Throughout the playoffs, Clearwater has faced teams with a preference for drag-strip basketball.

The Tornadoes have obliged by playing the same style and put their foot on the accelerator to beat Blake in the region quarterfinals and Hillsborough in the region semifinals.

Now comes an opponent that wants to apply the brakes.

Venice got through the first two rounds by remaining patient and methodical, seizing the opportunity when an opponent suffers a series of mental lapses.

So far, the Indians have played Lakewood and Boca Ciega, two of the county's most entertaining teams. Both were sent home for the winter, their thrilling offensive machinery trumped by the region's most enduring team.

This is what Venice does. It outworks, outmaneuvers — outlasts.

"It is going to be different simply because we have to adapt to a different style," Clearwater coach Allen Carden said. "We've been playing teams that are very up-tempo and like to get up and go.

"Venice wants to slow the game down and make it low scoring."

The Tornadoes are used to playing with checkered-flag abandon.

In its first two playoff games, Clearwater was on a thrill ride with finger rolls, fallaways and no-look passes. The result was high-scoring games in which the Tornadoes prevailed 69-55 over Blake and 72-59 over Hills­borough.

The Indians are used to playing with crossing-guard caution. In its first playoff games, Venice was able to grind teams down with a controlled offense to prevail 57-40 over Lakewood and 35-33 over Boca Ciega.

"The key is to get off to a quick start," Pirates coach Randy Shuman said of the Indians. "I think it's big if someone can get a lead right away and force them to play from behind.

"But nobody has been able to do that yet."

Carden believes his team is versatile enough to adapt to any way the game flows.

"We really can play any style," Carden said. "And we're playing our best basketball right now. Practice was so sharp the past few days. I think they're tired of practicing and just want to get out there and play.

"I know they're ready."

FAST FACTS

Class 5A region boys basketball

Venice (27-3)

at Clearwater (26-3)

Admission: $6

At stake: The winner faces the Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer-Fort Lauderdale Dillard winner in Wednesday's state semifinals in Lakeland.

Outlook: The Tornadoes are trying to get to the state semifinals for the first time since they made consecutive appearances in 2004 and '05. Clearwater is led by its post players, Julien Sargent and Okaro White. But the Tornadoes guards, particularly Cory Carden and Regan O'Rourke, have played big roles in the playoffs. Venice is in the playoffs for the third straight season and is trying to make the state semifinals for the first time since 1956.

Boys basketball region preview: Clearwater hopes to push pace against Venice 02/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 12:00am]

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