PINELLAS PARK — Old habits are hard to shake, so it would have been understandable if Clearwater coach Allen Carden had become disoriented before Wednesday night's game against Pinellas Park.
Oops, wrong locker room.
"I felt a little weird to be in the visitors' locker room," Carden said. "The only time I had done that before was in P.E. class."
Carden spent four seasons with the Patriots before joining the Tornadoes this past spring. His return wearing red and white could have caused some confusion, not only for Carden, but for typically hard-edged fans so accustomed to cheering him.
After all, he led Pinellas Park to the region final last season.
On Wednesday, he guided Clearwater to a 64-38 victory over his former team.
"There was some emotion there," Carden said. "I love the guys that were here when I was coaching. They'll always be special to me. But at the same time, we tried to treat this game as a business-like trip."
In a bizarre game of trading places, both coaches were facing their former team. Patriots coach Jon Cabino was an assistant and junior varsity coach at Clearwater before coming to Pinellas Park.
"It felt a little strange," Cabino said.
Early on, the Patriots (3-3) were successful in neutralizing Clearwater's imposing frontcourt of Julian Sargent and Okaro White.
But it didn't last.
After 6-1, the Tornadoes started to find a rhythm, going on a 13-2 run to close out the first quarter.
"We tried to get Okaro out of his game as early as possible," Cabino said. "But Clearwater has a great program and a lot of experience. They eventually took it to us."
The Tornadoes cruised the rest of the way, using their height advantage with White (6-foot-8) and Sargent (6-9) to outrebound the Patriots 53-18. Sargent led all players with 20 rebounds.