LARGO — For the two teams in the final of the Lady Golden Eagles Thanksgiving Tournament, it was a chance to see early on how they might progress throughout the season.
While Clearwater wanted to build upon a start that includes a victory over Class 3A state champion Tampa Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian wanted to see how it matched up against a perennial playoff squad.
After a 51-46 win by Clearwater in which it recovered from a 15-6 first-quarter deficit, both seemed quite secure.
"We've never been within 15 points of them ever and this game could have gone either way, so I'm proud of what we were able to do," Golden Eagles coach Phil Farver said. "This will ultimately make us a better team down the stretch, and it will help us learn how to handle leads and deal with adversity in the game."
Emma Loucks paced the Tornadoes (5-0) with 13 points and was named tournament MVP.
"We just picked up the defensive intensity, and then that made things easier on the offensive end," Loucks said.
Rachel Burnett scored seven of her game-high 14 in the first quarter to help the Golden Eagles (3-1) build a cushion.
But the Tornadoes stormed back with a 10-0 run at the end of the first quarter into the second quarter and took their first lead at 16-15 when Loucks hit the second of her four 3-pointers.
The Golden Eagles went into halftime up 26-24, but after Jess Logemann's 3-pointer from the top of the key at the beginning of the third, Loucks sank two shots in a row beyond the arc to start an 11-2 run, and Clearwater ended the quarter with a 39-35 lead.
The Golden Eagles narrowed the gap to 40-37 on Kristen Scholl's layup, but a 9-0 run by the Tornadoes put the game out of reach.
"We needed those runs, because Indian Rocks is a solid team with some pretty good scorers," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "We've been behind like that two other times this season, and we've just found a way to battle back. It's a good test for us early on, and it will help us build our character."