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Patriots nip Tornadoes, rule 4A-7

Angela Meiser had been frustrated all game long, but when Pinellas Park was about lose the Class 4A, District 7 girls basketball final to underdog Clearwater, Meiser knew the Patriots needed a spark. "I felt I had the hot hand," Meiser, a junior forward, said after hitting three consecutive three-point shots in the last two minutes Saturday to erase a four-point deficit and carry Pinellas Park to a 67-63 victory. It is the second successive district title for the Patriots.

The Patriots, 31-1 and ranked second in the state, advance to the Region IV playoff game at Sarasota Riverview on Tuesday night.

Pinellas Park trailed 57-46 with 4:18 left. Pinellas Park coach Ed Jackson hoped to get the ball into Meiser's hands, and he had that opportunity when Antoinette Preston fouled out and Meiser switched to point guard.

Meiser responded by scoring 13 of her 23 points. She dragged the Patriots out of a slump they had been in since the start of the second quarter, when Clearwater took a lead it did not lose until 1:28 remained in the game.

"I felt the adrenaline; I really wanted it bad," Meiser said. "I knew we were losing, but I knew we weren't going to let down."

"We needed to get the ball to Angela. She shoots that shot, and we just knew she could hit them," said Jackson, whose players put an end to Clearwater's 23-6 season. "This is the toughest game we've had all year."

Meiser had been outplayed by Clearwater's Tricia Van Wagner, who scored 27 points. Van Wagner helped the Tornadoes to an 11-point advantage, leaving them within striking distance of an upset.

Van Wagner missed on two one-and-one opportunities with the score tied at 61 in the last minute. That gave Meiser the chance for her heroics.

"We had them on the ropes," Clearwater coach Mike Kessinger said, "but we didn't finish it."

"I guess we could've done better," Van Wagner said.

Meiser's first three-pointer closed a 59-55 Clearwater lead to 59-58 with 2:01 left. Mary Battle then drove in for a bsket to put Clearwater ahead 61-58, but 10 seconds later Meiser popped another three-pointer to tie it at 61.

Meiser's last three-point shot gave the Patriots a 64-61 advantage with 59 seconds left.