© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2002
CLEARWATER -- The applause started with a minute remaining, polite at first before building to a roar.
But moments later when the buzzer sounded fans did not flood Clearwater's floor or mob the victors. Nor did the Tornadoes wildly celebrate.
The journey to this point had been expected.
Now the fun starts.
With a 65-48 win Saturday over Fort Myers in the final, Clearwater earned a trip to Lakeland and the state tournament, its target throughout a school-best 32-1 season.
Clearwater, No. 2 in 5A, plays fourth-ranked Winter Springs on Wednesday. The Bears defeated Daytona Beach Mainland 68-50 in the 5A-2 final.
"It's a relief," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "This was our goal from the beginning of the year, and they didn't stumble."
Fort Myers (28-6) took care of the stumbling duties, coughing up the ball 29 times against a relentless Tornadoes trap defense. Sixteen of the turnovers came in the first half, and Clearwater scored 18 off those to build a 31-20 halftime lead.
"Coach said that he was going to get out and try to press them early and see how good they were," Clearwater guard Kasie Muchler said. "If it bothered them we were going to stick with it the whole game.
"It did, and we got a lot of points out of it."
Dominique Redding provided the bulk of the offense for Clearwater. Her first of two 3-pointers ended the team's first big run, an 8-0 spurt in the first quarter that led to a 12-5 lead. Several early jumpers got the junior forward into the flow, and she finished with 27 points, her biggest output of the regional tournament.
"We just couldn't contain her," Fort Myers coach Elmer Tremont said.