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Clearwater pulls away

It seemed like a mismatch, when records were compared, but when district rivals clash nothing can be taken for granted.

Example: Palm Harbor University had just two wins and was short three players when it invaded Clearwater's gym Tuesday. Yet with a minute left in the opening quarter, the Tornadoes' defensive anchor, Cruz Daniels, drew his second personal foul and spent most of the remainder of the half on the bench.

It was a turning point for Clearwater. Which way would it go?

The Tornadoes chose correctly. With Daniels on the bench, they increased their lead from three to six before taking a 28-20 halftime lead. The shooting of Darius Hart outside and Trevor Lee inside did the rest as Clearwater (11-1 overall, 3-1 district) pulled away to a 57-41 triumph.

"They're tough because they've got a lot of guys who can score," Hurricanes coach Michael Walters said. "They have options, four or five guys who they can go to. They're just a well-rounded team."

Hart finished with 25 points for Clearwater (including five 3-pointers) and Hill scored 17. Daniels added nine points, eight rebounds and eight blocks.

"It was a conference game, a district game," said Clearwater coach Jack Coit, "and they're always tough. The intensity picks up. But our guys did play pretty good defense, and they did pick up the intensity.

"They played hard. They might not have played good, but they played hard."

The third quarter was decisive, as the Tornadoes increased their 28-20 halftime lead to 42-29 with eight points from Hill. Hart's two 3-pointers in the first 1:35 of the final quarter iced it.

Holmes leads SPC to overtime victory

TAMPA _ Aaron Holmes had just followed a Billy Tapp miss with a flying, thunderous dunk in the lane. When he then stole the ball at half court midway through the third quarter, with St. Petersburg Catholic leading by two, Holmes had one thing on his mind.

"I was fixin' to silence that crowd."

He missed the two-handed jam. But that was about the only thing he did wrong all night.

Jesuit rallied to tie the score and send it to overtime, but Holmes scored eight of SPC's 11 points in overtime to lead the Barons over Jesuit 66-63. The county scoring leader got help from senior forward Billy Tapp, who scored 16.

Pat Rice and Tyler Sterns hit five 3-pointers each for the Tigers (8-5). Rice scored 19 points and Sterns 18.

Holmes put the Barons (11-2) up two with 32 seconds left in regulation with a driving basket. Jesuit forward Thomas Kaiser was fouled on a layup attempt and made two free throws. Holmes had a chance to win it at the buzzer but his shot was blocked by Sterns.

Holmes started overtime strongly as he scored a quick bucket. Rice then answered with a slashing drive through traffic to tie it, but the point guard went down with a cramp in his calf.

Barons point guard Noah Cumby found Tapp underneath for the go-ahead basket. Then, Barons forward Joey Baker stole the ball and dished it to Holmes for an easy two. The Tigers had to resort to fouling the rest of the game and Holmes sank all four of his free throws to seal the victory.

Battling a constant box-and-one defense all night, Holmes was shut out in the third quarter. But coach Mike Moran made some adjustments and relied on Holmes to battle through it.

"Coach just told me to be patient and let it come to me," Holmes said. "They played some tough D but I wasn't about to let my teammates down."

_ CHRIS GIRANDOLA, Times correspondent

Elsewhere

Tarpon Springs survived a wild finish to improve to 4-0 in the district with a 54-50 win over Wesley Chapel on Tuesday.

The Spongers led 50-47 with 22 seconds remaining, but Chase Bussey nailed a 3-pointer to even the score. Tarpon Springs (8-6) moved the ball downcourt and, after a scramble under the basket, Emanuele Gamble laid it in to give the Spongers the lead.

After a turnover, the Wildcats (6-7) had a chance to tie after intercepting a pass, but missed the tying shot. Joe Rivera hit two free throws as the Spongers escaped.

Tim Craddock led Tarpon Springs with 11 points and Nick Stajic added 10.

"I like the way we are playing right now," Tarpon Springs coach Jerry Woodka said. "Wesley Chapel is a good team and this was a big district game for us. We have been balanced all season and it's paying off."

TAMPA BAPTIST 71, KESWICK CHR. 60: Keswick Christian led 40-37 at halftime but couldn't hold on as the Rams went on a 22-12 third-quarter run and held on. The Crusaders (4-6) were led by R.J. Denton's 14 points; Aaron McClaron led the Rams (4-4) with 22. Keswick closed the gap to five points late in the fourth quarter, but Tampa Baptist hit its free throws down the stretch.

COUNTRYSIDE 49, LARGO 43: The Cougars (5-8) pulled off a mild upset as they dressed only nine players, who all scored. Largo (9-3) dressed only seven. "We have been fighting through youth and inexperience, but this game shows we are starting to figure it out," Countryside coach Bob Marinak said.

EAST LAKE 58, DUNEDIN 42: Ross Stewart scored 20, including 17 in the second half, to lead the Eagles (9-2). Jamaar Jackson led the Falcons (5-8) with 11.

_ JEFF BERLINICKE, Times staff writer

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