Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Class 5A state final loss deflates Clearwater Tornadoes fans

Clearwater fans sit dejected as their team’s chances at a state title slip away Friday night against Gainesville in Lakeland.

Michael C. Weimar | Special to the Times

Clearwater fans sit dejected as their team’s chances at a state title slip away Friday night against Gainesville in Lakeland.

LAKELAND — Because his school's boys basketball team reached the Class 5A state final, Clearwater High senior and die-hard fan Ryan Cheney wanted to make a splash during Friday's game.

So he went to a local costume shop.

Cheney, 18, paid $20 for what he considered the perfect outfit for the occasion. Then he headed to the Lakeland Center, site of the game.

After a foul was called against the Tornadoes in the opening minute, Cheney put on his costume — a referee's outfit, sunglasses and blind person's cane. He rose from his seat and walked around as if he couldn't see to poke fun at the officials, which drew laughs from many in the crowd.

"So many calls go against us, I had to do something," Cheney said.

At Friday's game, Cheney was among hundreds of Clearwater High students in attendance. While none matched his creativity, most shared his enthusiasm in supporting the Tornadoes, who ultimately fell to Gainesville High, 53-46.

Throughout the event, Tornadoes fans were loud and proud.

Most wore red Clearwater High T-shirts. Several made signs, one of which said, "Clearwater Basketball — Best in the State." All seemed to enjoy themselves as the Tornadoes attempted to win the program's second championship. The first came in 1981.

"This is exciting," Clearwater senior Laura Sais, 17, said before the game.

"We know we're going to win," added freshman Adela Gavani, 15.

Like many Clearwater students, Gavani and Sais rode on one of two "spirit" buses to Lakeland. The $20 cost included a ticket to the game.

The Tornadoes faithful were energetic from the moment they arrived. They roared when Clearwater players were announced inside the arena. They danced and sang during timeouts. And they celebrated wildly whenever a Tornadoes player did something spectacular.

However, as Gainesville built a sizeable first-half lead, much of that enthusiasm was tempered. Later, when Clearwater trailed 40-27 entering the final quarter, several of its fans looked ready to bolt.

But then the team rallied. And things got exciting.

A roar followed every Clearwater basket, each louder than the one before it.

When Julien Sargent hit a layup with 4:47 left to draw Clearwater to within 40-38, the Tornado student section practically blew the lid off the arena.

But the team's momentum was short-lived.

Gainesville responded with a surge of its own and soon it was over. With time winding down, Purple Hurricane fans began to chant, "We're No. 1, we're No. 1." In the Clearwater section, most had stunned looks on their faces as the clock struck zero.

But while the Clearwater faithful may have been disappointed, they made sure the team knew its effort was appreciated. Some of the night's loudest cheers came as each member of the squad received his runnerup medal.

"They played hard," said senior Michael Holmes, 17. "They just couldn't hit their shots. It's sad."

Class 5A state final loss deflates Clearwater Tornadoes fans 03/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 10:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  2. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

  3. Bucs' annual Women of RED preseason party attracts nearly 2,000


    TAMPA — Theresa Jones is primarily a college football fan, but she wanted to get a taste of the Bucs. So the 46-year-old Tampa resident bought a ticket for the team's Women of RED Ultimate Football Party at Raymond James Stadium on Friday.

    Lee White of Seminole tries on a helmet at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers female fans descended upon Raymond James Stadium for the ultimate football party, the 2017 Women of RED: The Takeover, supported by Moffitt Cancer Center. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times

  4. Rays vs. Mariners, 1:10 Sunday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Mariners

    1:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Blake Snell
  5. Bucs' Ali Marpet: Move to center could pay off big


    TAMPA — No player works as closely with Jameis Winston as the center. Only those two touch the ball on every play. Together they make — if you will — snap judgements about defensive alignments.

     Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ali Marpet #74 warm up prior to preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805