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Tornadoes win North title 64-61

With the score 0-0, Countryside's Collis McKenzie shot his first freethrow. It bounced off the front of the rim, the back of the rim, and out.

And thus went the Cougars. They missed their shots. Clearwater didn't and beat Countryside 64-61 Wednesday for the Pinellas County Conference North title.

Clearwater (21-7 overall and 11-3 in the PCC) plays Lakewood Friday night at Countryside High for the conference championship.

Countryside (20-7, 11-3) actually tied Clearwater for the division lead, but the tie-breaker was best regular-season record minus tournament games. Clearwater was 18-4, Countryside 17-5.

Wednesday night's game was as close as the division race. But Clearwater shot better (58 to 43 percent) and outrebounded Countryside 32-20.

"We executed well," said Countryside coach Joe O'Neill, whose team had only four turnovers, "but we didn't finish the shots I thought they (Clearwater) had a good night shooting from the outside."

When Countryside beat Clearwater last month, the Cougars crowded the inside to balance the rebounding. But with the Tornadoes gunning with success - including four 15-plus-footers from 6-foot-10 Sean Pell (20 points) - Countryside couldn't jam underneath.

"'It's just exactly what we needed," Clearwater coach Rudy Coffin said of the outside shots. "We wanted to spread it out."

Forward Marvin Jackson complemented Pell with 18 points. Clearwater may have pulled away if not for the heroics of 6-4 Cougars forward Jonathan Field, who scored 25 points.

Girls: Venice, Gibbs easy winners in 3A-11 play

ST. PETERSBURG - Both Venice and Gibbs crushed their opponents in the opening round of the girls Class 3A, District 11 tournament.

Venice (10-12), a 66-23 winner over East Lake, meets Lakewood today while Gibbs (9-14), which defeated Boca Ciega 56-27, challenges state-ranked Bradenton Southeast in the nightcap.

Guard Becky Waite (15 points) started a 19-2 Venice run in the opening period as the Indians forced four turnovers and captured three rebounds. East Lake's first points came with only 1:40 remaining in the first period when guard April Farwell nailed two free throws.

Farwell led the Eagles (1-22) with six points.

In the first game, Gibbs forwards Erika Madden and Joi Brown totaled 22 points. Guard Lori Young led the Pirates (4-17) with six points.

- Correspondent Mike Phillips contributed to this report.