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BOCA CIEGA DOESN'T LET UP

The Pirates make 17 3-pointers to roll past Clearwater and into the state semifinals.

In the third quarter, Boca Ciega freshman Tamara Taylor stepped back and hit a 3-pointer, an act that was so natural, so familiar, so amazingly routine.

The degree of difficulty on the shot, from the outside, on the wing, was not particularly high. But in the broad pantheon of Taylor 3-pointers, it rated as the one of the most significant and the most memorable.

Clearwater made a furious rally, cutting the deficit from 18 to 1. That's when Taylor hit her shot to extend the lead to four.

The Tornadoes never got any closer, due in large part to the Pirates' perimeter shooting. Boca Ciega tormented Clearwater from the outside, shooting 17 3-pointers, including eight from Taylor, in a 81-66 victory in the Class 5A region final.

The Pirates advance to the state final four for the first time since 1999 and will play Winter Haven in the semifinals Wednesday at the Lakeland Center.

"It was one of the best shooting performances from a team I've ever seen," Tornadoes coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "You can't defend that. All you can do is smile and shake your head."

The Pirates started by making seven of their first eight 3-pointers. Latavia Dempsey had the hot hand early on, making her first three attempts. That helped Boca Ciega jump out to a 22-4 lead.

Clearwater (24-6), though, stayed patient and fed the ball inside to J'Beria Davis, who scored a team-high 27. Davis ignited a third-quarter comeback in which the Tornadoes went on a 26-11 run to cut it to 49-48.

No problem. Boca Ciega (27-3) just kept firing away - and making them.

After Taylor hit her third-quarter shot, the Pirates made six more 3-pointers to put the game out of reach.

"When we cut it down to one, I'd say 99 percent of the time, the other team tightens up," Shaneyfelt said. "But all they did was keep jacking up shots."

Taylor led Boca Ciega with 33 points, followed by Tory Stephens (25) and Dempsey (11).

"I've been involved in a game where we've been in double digits in 3-pointers," Pirates coach Will White said. "But never a performance quite like this."

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

UP NEXT

State girls basketball semifinals

All games Wednesday at the Lakeland Center

Class 5A

Bogie Ciega (27-3) will play Winter Haven (29-2) for a chance to play for the state championship. They would play the winner of the Leesburg (29-1)/Barron Collier (28-3) game on Friday at 7 p.m.

Up next:BLACKHAWKS

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