CLEARWATER — With four seconds remaining in regulation Wednesday, Countryside seemed dead, destined to lose another close game in the waning moments. But fortune finally shined on this usually forlorn team.
Locked in a tie game, the Cougars watched as St. Petersburg got a steal and fastbreak opportunity. One potential winning shot by the Green Devils bounced off the rim. St. Petersburg grabbed the rebound and lofted another shot that bounced off the rim in suspended agony before falling out as the buzzer sounded.
The game went into overtime, giving Countryside a reprieve. The Cougars made the most of their second chance, jumping out to a quick lead then holding on for a 78-74 victory.
"This is the biggest win of the season so far," said Cougars guard Dino Tabakovic, who scored a team-high 24, including four 3-pointers. "We had kind of been in a slump and needed to get back in the district race."
In the past two weeks, Countryside (11-6) failed to secure first-half leads in close losses to Wharton and North Port.
Wednesday, it appeared that trend would continue against the Green Devils, who were undefeated against county competition. The Cougars had the lead in each of the first three quarters. But St. Petersburg's Allen Wilson (team-high 26 points) started getting hot from long range, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half to get his team back in the game.
Countryside showed enough resolve to force overtime and started the extra period with a 3-pointer by Diomi Roberts, who followed that with a fastbreak layup to give the Cougars a 70-65 lead.
"We've felt like we've let a couple of games get away lately," Cougars coach Myron Huey said. "This is the first time the kids have been in an overtime situation like this, and they responded by knocking down some shots to give us a quick start."