ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood was bursting with confidence the last time it played Clearwater 10 days ago. But the Tornadoes proved to ungracious hosts, beating the Spartans to snap their six-game win streak.
Even more was at stake for Lakewood when it played Clearwater on Friday night in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. This time, the Spartans were at home and hoping to exact revenge after losing to the Tornadoes in last year's conference final.
The outcome, though, was similar to the last time these teams met. Clearwater, relying on the strength of its inside game, broke open a close game in the second half to win 73-56.
It was the Tornadoes' second straight conference title and third straight for coach Allen Carden, who led Pinellas Park to the title two years ago when he was coach of the Patriots.
"It was real sloppy," Carden said. "Lakewood puts so much pressure on you defensively, and that's something we're going to have to handle on that next level. But we were able to go to our strengths after the half."
In the first half the Spartans (18-7) played small-ball, using their quickness to create turnovers and fastbreak opportunities.
But Clearwater (20-5) did just enough to stay ahead and went into the half with a 33-27 lead.
In the third quarter, the Tornadoes started going to Okaro White (19 points) and John Hogan (16), who were each able to get prime post-up position for easy buckets down low.
"The difference was the paint points," Lakewood coach Dan Wright said. "We were unable to stop their guys inside."
By the fourth quarter, the Tornadoes had a 17-point lead. The Spartans cut the deficit to eight but were never able to get any closer.
Mike Singleton led Lakewood with 17 points, followed by LaDarius Barnes, who had 15, including four 3-pointers.