By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
Clearwater again advances to the state semifinals after downing Bogie.
GULFPORT - Clearwater's Darius Hart and Boca Ciega's Enoris Sly were two of the hottest players in the county entering their matchup Saturday night. In the region semifinals, they scored a combined 62 points.
On Saturday, they scored 13.
While Clearwater could afford an off night from Hart, it was too steep a price for the Pirates to have their leading scorer go cold. Sly had plenty of company, and as a result the Pirates had no chance as Clearwater advanced to the final four with a 53-45 win.
It is the second straight trip to Lakeland for the Tornadoes, which the program hasn't accomplished since 1958.
"We wanted to go back pretty bad," center Cruz Daniels said. "I don't think there's any team that wanted to go back more than we did."
The Tornadoes are 79-7 the past three seasons, and despite losing senior starters each season, continue to progress through the playoffs.
"Anybody that expects to go to state back-to-back ... well, that's extremely hard," coach Jack Coit said.
Clearwater (27-1) did it Saturday night in typical Tornado fashion - with a solid all-around team effort on both ends of the court. Trevor Lee scored a team-high 14, with Daniels scoring 12, Hart 11 and Vince Miller nine. Bogie starters Lamorya Daniels and Mike Culbreth combined for 30, while the other three starters had nine, including just two points from Sly.
The Pirates were suffocated the first 13 minutes of the second half, missing all 10 3s.
"The last game we played (against Fort Myers) was real close, so we just decided as a team to play harder this time," Daniels said.
Daniels had some big blocked shots early, which seemed to take the Pirates out of their game. It forced them outside, but with the 6-foot-10 Daniels camped out inside, the other Tornadoes were able to contest almost every shot.
Trailing 18-17, the Tornadoes scored 11 straight over the end of the second and beginning of the third quarters to lead 28-18.
In the key run, Jabez Mitchem scored his only basket on a 3-pointer, Miller added another and Lee converted a 3-point play.
Bogie (18-8) never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
"Same old thing - no shoot, no win," Bogie coach Randy Shuman said. "In eight quarters against them, we scored in single digits four times."
Daniels had seven blocks, and was a weapon in every facet. He was 6-for-7 from the field, scoring all his points on short jumpers from 8 to 10 feet, and dominated the boards. He was one of six seniors to see action, as the veteran group never wilted.
"We have a lot of experience, and a lot more seniors," Lee said. "We knew what we wanted to do, we knew what we could do and we showed that we're a great team."