Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cotey: Clearwater's O'Rourke just wanted it all

LAKELAND — Regan O'Rourke started his senior year hoping to win a district title.

That's it.

"I would have been satisfied," he said.

He ended his senior year crying in front of a few thousand red and purple-clad fans, a silver medal hanging from his neck, his balled up hand trying to push the tears back where they came from.

Funny how things work out, how expectations change, how what was once unattainable now rips you apart because it was so … darn … close.

Imagine that.

O'Rourke didn't have his best game Friday night in Clearwater's season-ending 53-46 defeat at the hands of your Class 5A state champion Gainesville Purple Hurricanes.

He was in early foul trouble.

He made just one of his 14 shots.

He was human.

Still, it isn't nearly enough to erase the season, the strides he made in his game, the way he, maybe more than anyone, was the X factor in getting Clearwater to this game.

And there's always The Shot II, a floater flicked off the backboard to give Clearwater one of the most memorable state semifinal wins ever.

Regan O'MyGodIcan'tbelievehemadeit!

"I've been on the top of the mountain the last two days," he said.

The tumble back down stings. A silver medal and a trophy not as big as the one Gainesville got isn't much of a cushion for the landing.

Funny how things change.

Before the season, O'Rourke hadn't even won a district championship. Not only hadn't he won, but he had lost barely.

In 2006, by a 53-51 score.

In 2007, it was 55-54.

Last year, it was 38-37.

"Four total points," he said. "I wanted to win just one."

This year, the Tornadoes won by 32 points, and didn't let up until the final game, finally buried beneath an avalanche of Gainesville 3-pointers.

"Coach (Allen) Carden came in and we had this list of goals he put up, and we just started checking them off. Next thing you know, we were checking off regional championship and we're here," O'Rourke said.

He thinks it all started the January night after losing to Lakewood, their only loss to Tampa Bay competition.

At East Lake, the team that was supposed to dethrone Clearwater this season, the Tornadoes rolled to a 75-58 win.

"We blew them out, and after that I think we knew," he said.

Knew that a district title wasn't going to be enough.

Along the way, O'Rourke evolved into a money player.

He was the X factor, the one player who had to be better than he had been his whole high school career for Clearwater to turn a good season to great.

He was Clearwater's best and most consistent postseason performer, helping turn the Blake, Hillsborough and Venice games in the Tornadoes' favor.

Then of course, there was The Shot II (in deference to The Shot, which still has to be Keona Dixon's full-court heave to beat Boca Ciega in a playoff game two years ago).

And he helped reinvent himself in his new coach's eyes, going from moody and uncoachable to the dream student.

"Regan was just wonderful," said Carden, who helped hand O'Rourke one of those district losses last year while he was the coach at Pinellas Park.

"He had a reputation for not being very coachable, but the kid plays his guts out, he practices his guts out. And he's going to be very difficult to replace."

He never got in the flow Friday, two quick fouls and the refs all but sealing the postseason Superman in the telephone booth.

He still managed eight assists, a stat he has grown fonder of as he matured as a player.

For a split second, he looked ready to take flight when he made his only shot with 38 seconds left in the third quarter to get Clearwater back within 10, sparking a furious rally.

The Tornadoes eventually got within two points at 40-38 after back-to-back baskets by Julien Sargent, but no closer.

"We thought we were going to win," O'Rourke said. "We really thought we were going to win."

He didn't want to hold the runnerup trophy as he, Sargent and Malcolm Grigley took the podium as the lone seniors.

And he didn't want that silver medal, either.

Today he may fiddle with it a little bit, see how the light hits it, maybe even smile when he realizes that Regan O'Rourke started his senior year hoping to win a district title.

Cotey: Clearwater's O'Rourke just wanted it all 03/06/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 7, 2009 12:21am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Anthem protest, the latest: Jerry Jones joins Cowboys on field in show of solidarity


    As President Donald Trump continued tweeting Monday about his displeasure with NFL players for staging demonstrations during the national anthem, the Cowboys took a knee on the field just before the anthem was performed on Monday Night Football. Dallas players were joined by owner Jerry Jones, and they quickly …

    Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, center, joins the team in taking a knee before the national anthem Monday night. They stood and linked arms for the anthem.
  2. Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says players who kneel have team's support


    TAMPA — Receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were the only Bucs players kneeling during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Vikings, but DT Gerald McCoy said the team supports their protest "100 percent."

    Bucs tight end Cameron Brate pulls in a touchdown catch as Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo (34) hits him in the back of the head.
  3. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, New York

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Yankees

    7:05, Yankee Stadium, New York

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Luke Del Rio regains UF starting job, for now


    GAINESVILLE — Luke Del Rio is once again the starting quarterback for No. 21 Florida.

    Luke Del Rio provided a needed spark when he replaced starter Feleipe Franks and rallied Florida past Kentucky.
  5. Four questions the Lightning still has to answer

    Lightning Strikes

    FORT LAUDERDALE — The Lightning made its biggest round of cuts Monday, with some of the big-name prospects heading out.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) looks on from the bench during a shift change at Lightning hockey training camp in Brandon on Monday (09/18/17). In background on right is Nikita Kucherov (86). DIRK SHADD   |   Times