CLEARWATER — Playing in perpetual fast forward, the Clearwater Tornadoes have become the blur that cannot be beaten.
They are a high school version of the Los Angeles Lakers' Showtime, averaging a crowd-pleasing 70 points per game and leaving opponents breathless while extending their winning streak to 13 games to advance to today's Class 5A state semifinal against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
But the Tornadoes insist the team speed that powers such gaudy statistics is somewhat deceiving. Every day is not a joy ride with the top down. There is work — and even defense — involved.
Just ask the co-drivers, guards Cory Carden and Regan O'Rourke.
"We try to get the ball to our big guys," Carden said.
"We're a very unselfish basketball team," O'Rourke added. "We try to get everyone involved and do the little things."
The scoring that elicits oohs and aahs comes from the Tornadoes' tall guys, forwards Okaro White (6-foot-9) and Julien Sargent (6-8), who can throw down powerful, two-handed dunks.
But Carden and O'Rourke are the ones who make Clearwater's go-go offense really go.
"Cory is the glue, a consummate team player," coach Allen Carden said. "Regan does so much for us and gives us an added dimension."
Model guards in a fastbreak offense are like good hosts at a dinner party, unselfishly serving the ball to teammates, making sure they have their fill of shots.
Carden and O'Rourke have done that this season, measuring defenders and calculating angles, considering their options at warp speed until they have determined the right instant to present a teammate with the ball and, more often than not, the best chance for a bucket.
"We've got two guys that are 6-8 or taller," Cory Carden said. "We can't let that height go to waste."
Cory, who transferred from Pinellas Park when his dad became coach at Clearwater, had the enviable task of taking over the point guard position from Luke Loucks, a former all-state player now at Florida State.
Cory has been more than a capable replacement, showing off his experience, confidence and talent.
"He also is a tough warrior," Allen Carden said of his son.
That was evident last week when Cory missed the final minute of the region final against Venice because he was vomiting.
After the game Cory went to a hospital to receive IV fluids due to dehydration from a stomach virus.
When Cory got home at 3:30 a.m. Sunday, he wanted to watch the game tape against Venice.
"I wanted to see the parts of the game I missed," he said.
O'Rourke also has been at the top of his game, tirelessly picking up assists.
"I like passing the ball to my teammates and seeing them score," O'Rourke said. "I know we'll have to get the ball to everyone and keep playing the way we have been to win it all."