Clearwater earns its eighth consecutive PCAC North Division title in a close game.
By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 7, 2003
SEMINOLE -- This year is different after all for Clearwater. The 2002-03 Tornadoes cannot say they took every county team to the woodshed.
Seminole perhaps can take some solace in that, though it is probably hard for the Warhawks not to think of what could have been in a 60-52 loss on Thursday.
Clearwater, which secured its eighth consecutive Pinellas County Athletic Conference North Division title, did not run away with the game like it had against other county foes. Instead, it built a modest lead, followed by enough clutch baskets and free throws to keep the Warhawks at arm's length.
Seminole (24-2, 6-1 PCAC) trailed by 12 going into the fourth quarter but whittled the margin down to five twice before a crowd yearning for an upset. The first time, Nicole Ryan drove in for a layup to make it 48-41 and halt the home team's momentum.
Moments later at 50-45, Tricia Finke scored inside on a dish from Karen Braden, but Dominique Redding hit a jumper and Ryan hit two free throws to make it 56-45.
Nothing for the blowout column but enough to get the win.
"Seminole's very good, they deserve attention," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "But we felt pretty confident coming in. We had some defensive lapses late, but we'll fix it up."
For Clearwater (23-4, 7-0), defense was the key in a pivotal second quarter. A stifling man-to-man halfcourt defense gave Seminole no breathing room, and Ryan did a particularly admirable job on Warhawks star Jen Hansen.
The West Point signee came in averaging more than 22 points but was held to four in the first half and 14 overall.
Hansen and her teammates' attempts to get inside and earn trips to the free-throw line came up almost completely empty. Seminole was 1-for-6. Clearwater was 21-for-24.
"We thought we were attacking the basket enough to get there," Seminole coach Dave Swanson said.
Clearwater plays host to the PCAC title game at 7 p.m. Saturday against Boca Ciega.