ST. PETERSBURG — To remain undefeated, to fill in the blanks on a glittering early season resume, the St. Petersburg Green Devils boys basketball team conceded it was only appropriate they would have to vanquish their greatest tormenters.
Clearwater had stepped over the Green Devils repeatedly in the regular season on its way to conference titles and postseason berths.
But Saturday night, St. Petersburg fought back.
The Green Devils jumped to an early lead, then traded scores with the Tornadoes before pulling out a 72-65 victory.
It was the first time St. Petersburg's Chris Blackwell had beaten Clearwater in his eight years at the school.
"This is a team that's kind of had our number," Blackwell said of the Tornadoes. "We haven't played them every year, but it seems each time we play them they get us. So this was a big win for me and this program."
Clearwater played the game without 6-foot-9 forward Okaro White, who still is nursing a sprained left ankle. And the Tornadoes were playing a quick, athletic team for the second straight night after knocking off Gibbs on Friday night.
The Green Devils took advantage of both factors, using their small but fast lineup to create mismatches on both ends of the floor.
"We knew that this would have been a different game with Okaro in there," Blackwell said. "And I think playing Gibbs and having to go up and down the floor the night before took its toll.
"Still, Clearwater is a powerhouse, and any time you can beat them it speaks volumes for your program."
Ahead 18-14 after one quarter, St. Petersburg watched its lead evaporate and went into halftime trailing 28-26.
But the Green Devils regained control in the third quarter, outscoring the Tornadoes 23-18 to go up 49-46. St. Petersburg maintained the lead throughout the fourth quarter.
Allen Wilson scored 19 to lead the Green Devils, followed by Gabe Moton with 14. Joey Nungester had a team-high 17 for Clearwater.
In the girls game, the Tornadoes jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first quarter, giving them enough of a cushion to cruise to a 67-48 victory over St. Petersburg.
Victoria Cecl scored 26 points for Clearwater, including six 3-pointers. Kamika Idom had 18 for the Green Devils.