LARGO — In a game that featured dazzling dunks and brilliant passes, it was a free throw that decided the Pinellas County all-star game.
Kendall O'Neill was fouled on a layup attempt with nine seconds left Friday and the East Lake senior made 1-of-2 free throws to give the North County squad a 100-99 lead, preserved when a last second halfcourt shot by Lakewood's Brandon Lilavois fell short.
Clearwater's Regan O'Rourke led the North County with 15 points and East Lake's Walter Smith added 14.
"Nothing compares to playing in the (state) final four, but this was an amazing time playing with all these guys," said O'Rourke, fresh off a Class 5A championship loss with the Tornadoes.
O'Rourke paired up with former Clearwater teammates Smith, Cornelius Powell (East Lake), and Tyler Stevenson (Palm Harbor University), all of whom played on the junior varsity team at Clearwater as ninth-graders.
After the South County team scored the first five points, the North County team looked as if it would run away with the win. O'Rourke was instrumental in helping build a 52-32 lead in the first half. But Boca Ciega's Richard Prince scored six of his 10 points during a 15-0 run by the South County team and by halftime, the North County squad held a 58-52 lead.
North County went on a 10-0 run with a little more than two minutes left, featuring a pass off the backboard from O'Neill to Smith, who finished with a monstrous dunk. South County stormed back and tied the game at 99 when Lakewood's Shalmon Cox scored on a driving layup.
Boca Ciega's Myron Dempsey led the South County with 21 points and Cox added 14.
At halftime, the dunk contest featured Smith, O'Rourke, Boca Ciega's Julius Forte and Dempsey with Smith winning. Stevenson won the 3-point contest with 12 baskets.