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Streaky Tornadoes rally, then hang on in overtime

With his team down two and 15 seconds left, Clearwater junior Luke Loucks zig-zagged through several Largo defenders on a desperate, coast-to-coast dash.

The capacity crowd soon reached its crescendo as Loucks found Jordan Scholl for a tying layup, sending the thriller into overtime.

As the Tornadoes held on for a 68-64 win, hundreds of red-clad fans rushed mid-court for a mosh-pit style celebration.

"I thought we were going to lose it," said Scholl, who had a game-high 18 points. "But the guys never gave up - and we pulled it out."

Clearwater, having blown a 13-point, third-quarter lead, had to overcome a four-point deficit with 35 seconds to go to force overtime.

The Tornadoes (3-0) showed little fatigue following their win over Boca Ciega the night before, jumping on Largo early to take a 33-21 halftime lead.

Clearwater used a sagging zone defense, begging Largo to shoot; the Packers did - poorly - going 4-for-14 from 3-point range the first two quarters.

"We just came out flat," senior Tony Russo said. "I don't know what it was."

Largo regrouped, overwhelming the Tornadoes most of the second half with a physical, swarming defense. Senior guard Dionte Hall scored eight in a 14-1 Largo (2-1) run near the end of the third, taking the lead 41-39 on a Ben O'Donnell pull-up jumper.

The rivals battled back and forth in a heated fourth quarter, when Largo's bruising forward Mike Helm scored eight of his team-high 17 to give the Packers a 59-55 lead with 38 seconds left.

Said Russo: "We just couldn't finish."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8129.

Girls Basketball

GULFPORT - Ashley Williams made free-throw shots. Latavia Dempsey made long-range shots. And Boca Ciega's fourth-quarter defense made it difficult for Lakewood to make any shots.

Propelled by their defense and backcourt, the Pirates beat Lakewood, their biggest rival, 48-38 to gain the upper hand in conference and district seeding.

"This was big for us," coach Will White said. "I'm proud of the way we were able to have a little bit of a gut-check and take it to them at the end."

Points were hard to come by early on as both teams used their athleticism to play ferocious defense.

Through the first five minutes, Lakewood led 3-1. That's when Dempsey, a freshman, stepped back behind the line and started firing away.

She hit three straight 3-pointers to put the Pirates ahead 10-3 and give them a decisive advantage.

"I found an area where I was comfortable and just started shooting," Dempsey said. "Once I hit the first one, I knew I could hit the rest. It was key because we needed to jump out to an early lead."

Both teams played evenly up until the half. Then Lakewood (5-3) gained momentum, going on a 16-8 run to take a 33-32 lead early in the fourth quarter.

It didn't last.

Boca Ciega (5-0) applied the brakes, holding the Spartans to five points down the stretch. Ashley Williams also helped the Pirates by hitting five of her six free throws in the final three minutes.

"The better team won (Thursday night)," Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. "Mentally, we didn't show up. But we'll see them again. This gives us time to mature.

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@sptimes.com or ( 727) 445-4169

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