CLEARWATER — The stakes are often high and the emotions always intense when Boca Ciega and Clearwater renew their rivalry on the basketball court. And that usually makes for a classic showdown, no matter what time of the year they play.
Wednesday's early, regular-season game was another classic.
On a night when the Pirates needed to make a stand to keep their place among the top teams in the area, it was the Tornadoes who made a statement with a 41-36 victory.
"Coming into this game we anticipated a dog fight," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "This is a rivalry that has been going on for 10 years."
Early on, it was Boca Ciega (9-3) that took command, thanks to the play of Latavia Dempsey.
The junior guard sank long jumpers, made twisting shots near the basket and controlled the game, dazzling and dazing the Tornadoes with every move and helping the Pirates jump out to a 15-4 lead in the second quarter.
Then the Tornadoes (12-0) rallied with their guards feeding the ball inside to J'beria Davis and Artajah Collins, who made layup after layup during a 13-0 run to close out the first half and put Clearwater ahead 17-15.
The score remained tight the rest of the way until the Tornadoes made another late run.
The win snapped Clearwater's three-game losing streak in this rivalry.
"This was a big hurdle physically and psychologically for us to get over," Shaneyfelt said.
Boca Ciega was playing with a depleted lineup. Tamara Taylor is not academically eligible until January and Bianca Iannello missed the game with the flu.
"I was real happy with the effort," Pirates coach Will White said. "We played well when we stuck to the game plan."