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Countryside boys' start is just perfect

Dino Tabakovic, one of only two returners for Countryside, is leading the way with 16.7 points a game. The Cougars are 6-0.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Dino Tabakovic, one of only two returners for Countryside, is leading the way with 16.7 points a game. The Cougars are 6-0.

CLEARWATER — Countryside coach Myron Huey did not know what to expect from his team this season.

The Cougars graduated seven seniors from a team that was a layup from knocking off St. Petersburg in the district semifinals and advancing to the postseason.

And only two players returned, Dino Tabakovic and Jared Low.

"I would say I was cautiously optimistic," Huey said.

Countryside has exceeded everyone's expectations by opening the season with six straight wins and is among a handful of county teams still undefeated.

"We were kind of worried in the summertime because we didn't have a lot of guys returning and we thought we were going to have to rely on a lot of guys from junior varsity to get us through," Low said. "But we've all seemed to come together."

In the preseason, the Cougars opened some eyes by knocking off Boca Ciega. The momentum has continued the past two weeks with the biggest victory so far coming against Seminole.

The key has been the play of Countryside's holdovers, Tabakovic and Low. Tabakovic has been the go-to player on offense, averaging a team-high 16.7 points. Low has been the defensive specialist, draping the opposing team's top scorer and averaging 3.3 steals.

The Cougars also got a boost with the addition of Kyle Kinnear, who transferred from Palm Harbor University. Kinnear, a 6-foot-6 post player, is averaging 14.2 points and 6.3 rebounds.

"We had a little bit of height but Kinnear gave us that big man in the middle," Tabakovic said.

Now the Cougars' strong start will be tested. Tonight, they face Largo in a matchup of two of the county's remaining unbeatens. After that, it's two strong holiday tournaments, followed by an early January schedule that includes Clearwater, North Port and St. Petersburg.

"We expected to be playing this well," Kinnear said. "But we know things will get a lot tougher. Tonight's game against Largo is our biggest yet."

fast facts

Surprise teams

Countryside isn't the only county team that has turned heads early this season.

Boca Ciega: The Pirates are always a contender, but many thought they would struggle early with so many new faces in the lineup. That hasn't happened. Boca Ciega opened the season by beating Clearwater on the road and is 5-1.

Pinellas Park: The Patriots showed they are a team to be reckoned with by giving county power Lakewood all it could handle before losing in overtime.

Tarpon Springs: After dropping their first two games, the Spongers have bounced back with three straight wins.

Countryside boys' start is just perfect 12/10/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:05pm]
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