It's clear sailing for Clearwater
Tornadoes take out Seminole 54-33 to reach the state semifinals for a third consecutive season.
By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
CLEARWATER - No Shinikki Whiting.
No Dominique Redding.
The Clearwater basketball program stepped from the shadows of its biggest stars Saturday night, riding a complete team effort back to a familiar place - the state final four - with a 54-33 victory over game, but overmatched, Seminole at Jack Wilson Gymnasium.
The Class 5A Tornadoes (27-2) will play Fort Walton Beach Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. It is the third consecutive season the Tornadoes have advanced to the Class 5A semifinals and fifth time in the past six seasons.
This time, it's a mild surprise to some who thought the county's best basketball program was weakened.
"This was more of a challenge," said Clearwater guard Nicole Ryan. "This year, it's much more of a team. I don't know if it's more satisfying; it's just a different feeling."
Clearwater's nemesis, Hollywood South Broward, lost Saturday and will not get a fourth chance to end the Tornadoes season in Lakeland. Fort Lauderdale Dillard beat South Broward and will meet Plant in the other semifinal.
Saturday, nine players scored for Clearwater, which was led by Heather Barber's 13 points. Just four players managed points for Seminole, and leading scorer Allie Fogle scored the Warhawks' first basket for her only two points.
Seminole (25-4) did give Clearwater much more of a game than last year, when it lost 70-43.
The Warhawks led 14-9 after a Laura Palmieri free throw with 5:46 left in the first half. Playing a slowdown style and preventing Clearwater from getting into its running attack, the Warhawks seemed in control.
The Tornadoes, however, asserted themselves down low, drawing a host of fouls. Without a basket, they were able to overtake Seminole by making eight straight free throws.
Clearwater's defense held Seminole to one basket over a 15-minute span spanning the second, third and fourth quarters.
Ryan, who constantly pushed the ball up the court against a tiring Warhawk defense, scored on a layup with 2:48 left in the half put Clearwater ahead for good, 19-17. She added two free throws and a long pass to Barber for an uncontested lay-in before the break for a 23-17 halftime lead.
That spurt appeared to break the will of Seminole. The Tornadoes opened the second half with 11 straight points, as Karley Counts 3-pointer made it 34-17.
"In the second half, Nicole Ryan took over for them," said Seminole coach Dave Swanson. "We didn't have an answer for her.
"They're big, they bring a lot of pressure, and they have a lot of speed. When they started to get into their transition game, I knew we were in trouble."
The much smaller Warhawks tried to rally, but only Chelsea Patterson (19 points) could find her shot, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the second half. Other Warhawks tried driving to the hoop for points, but the Tornadoes blocked a half-dozen shots.
Fogle fouled out with 4:17 left after Seminole had a chance to get the lead under double digits, and Clearwater coasted home.
"For this team, from the beginning the goal was to be No.1 and show everyone they deserved to get back (to the semifinals)," said Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt. "They wanted to prove they were still the team to beat."
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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