CLEARWATER — Clearwater played a basketball game Tuesday night that was tense, long and exhausting.
And it was just what the Tornadoes needed.
After playing some nondescript games against some nondescript opponents the first week of the season, Clearwater finally played a game that wasn't decided until the fourth quarter in a 55-39 victory over St. Petersburg.
"This was the best test we've had so far," Tornadoes coach Tom Shaneyfelt said.
Clearwater (4-0) took control early, jumping out to a 13-8 lead after the first quarter and going into halftime ahead 25-15.
At the start of the third quarter, the Green Devils (2-1) rallied with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 25-23. The Tornadoes were out of rhythm and needed a spark.
Veronica Ryan provided it.
She swished a 3-pointer for Clearwater's first field goal of the second half to make it 28-23.
"We missed some shots in the third quarter, but that's a credit to St. Petersburg," Shaneyfelt said. "They stepped up at the time."
The Green Devils never got any closer as Clearwater stayed ahead 34-29 at the end of the third quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter, the Tornadoes started to run and broke the game open.
J'Beria Davis, who sat most of the first half in foul trouble, scored a team-high 17 for Clearwater. Ryan (12 points) and Rachel Brown (10) were the other Tornado players who reached double digits in scoring.
Clearwater's next test comes this weekend when it plays in a tournament against state powers Sarasota Christian and Bradenton Southeast.
"It will be another big challenge for us," Shaneyfelt said.
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4169.