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Still waiting for a challenge

Class 6A No. 2 Miami Senior poses no problem as 5A No. 2 Clearwater rolls to a 55-38 win.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002

SARASOTA -- Turns out, there is a downside to being ranked second in Florida with a perfect record against state foes: no experience in comeback basketball.

Unbeaten Clearwater certainly has not had much, but the Class 5A No. 2 team did not need it Friday night in the Karp Classic semifinals. As for the 6A No. 2 team, it finally found some adversity -- and failed to cope.

Miami Senior, with its only blemish a loss to a Tennessee team, fell behind early and could not recover against Clearwater (17-0), which played a near-flawless game to stay perfect with a 55-38 win.

Clearwater advances to tonight's 8:30 championship game against Bradenton Southeast, the No. 4 team in 4A. The Seminoles beat Sarasota 46-45 on Friday in the other semifinal.

Clearwater last played Southeast in the 2000 Hooters Holiday Shootout championship game, winning 58-55 in overtime.

"I was real thrilled with our effort tonight," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "I thought the key to the game going in was what team is going to get that double-digit lead and be able to pull the other team out a little bit, because we both like to do that."

The Tornadoes built a 10-point lead in the first quarter behind three 3-pointers. Senior Kasie Muchler hit two of them, then added another and three free throws in the second quarter as Clearwater surged to a 28-12 halftime lead.

"Coach just says, "If you're open, shoot it. If you miss it, leave it alone and come back to it later,"' said Muchler, who led the way with 12 points in the first half. "I had it hot, so I kept shooting."

The Stings failed to find any sort of offensive rhythm until very late.

Miami Senior made just seven of 28 shots from the field in the first three quarters, scoring 5, 7 and 6 points, respectively, in each and falling behind by 20 entering the fourth before scoring 20 to keep the game from becoming a laugher.

"We couldn't hit the ocean today," Miami Senior coach Sam Baumgarten said. "When you get down to a team like this, there's no coming back."

In the early going, Clearwater took advantage of the Stings' 2-3 zone by hitting enough outside shots to draw defenders' attention, allowing Dominique Redding to camp in the paint.

Miami Senior had no one to match Redding's 6-foot-1 frame. She scored 13 points in the second half and 19 overall to lead all scorers.

With the game in hand, Clearwater continued running in the fourth for some transition baskets. One highlight-film fastbreak included Redding hitting a streaking Karley Counts under the basket, who then kicked it back to Redding for layup.

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