Bench player comes up big for Clearwater girls

By BRYAN BURNS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007

CLEARWATER - Two years ago, Clearwater's Rachel Brown had never picked up a basketball.

Under encouragement from the Clearwater coaches, who saw potential in the 6-foot-4 player, Brown tried out for the junior varsity squad and, Clearwater head coach Tom Shaneyfelt said, had trouble just moving up and down the court because of growing pains in her knees.

What a difference two years make.

Brown, coming off the bench for the Tornadoes in her first year on varsity, had a career-best game against one of the county's top squads in Lakewood. Brown scored just nine of Clearwater's 73 points, but her biggest contribution came defensively as she blocked eight Lakewood shots and secured nine rebounds in the Tornadoes 73-51 win.

"Their interior play was the difference tonight," Lakewood coach Nicole Tunsil said. "(Brown) played a very good game tonight for them. She was strong inside, and our interior tonight just could not contain her. She was the difference in the game."

Brown's presence in the middle made it particularly hard for Lakewood (6-3, 5-1) to establish any kind of an inside game offensively. The Spartans got 26 points and nine rebounds from star player Kerah Nelson, but no other Lakewood player finished with more than six points.

"That's three times the game that (Brown's) ever had," Shaneyfelt said. "Usually, she won't catch and finish everything she gets her hands on. She won't keep the ball up high. But, (Thursday night) I don't remember her bringing the ball down once. ... She's getting more active and stepping out and blocking shots. She just played great tonight."

Clearwater (8-1 3-0), meanwhile, had four players score nine or more, highlighted by Keona Dixon's game-high 28 points. The versatile Dixon scored a number of tough buckets on drives into the lane, made all three of her team's 3-pointers and finished 7-of-9 from the free-throw line.

"We knew coming into the game that Dixon was a phenomenal player, and we were going to have some problems containing her," Tunsil said.

Lakewood started to take control near the end of the first quarter after going on a 9-0 run to take a 17-7 lead. The Tornadoes, who pressed much of the night and caused 23 Lakewood turnovers, led by seven (34-27) at the half and pushed the lead to 16 after Dixon's second 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter.

From there, Clearwater kept distancing itself from Lakewood and led by as much as 26 before winning by 22.

"We knew coming into the game they were going to press us," Tunsil said. "We were prepared for the press. It's just at some point our guards felt like dribbling the ball more. In the beginning of the game, we were passing the ball well and breaking the press with no problems. Then, all of a sudden, we got off on our own individual game, and that's where the turnovers came into play.

"Turnovers killed us, the big girl in the middle killed us, and our inexperience killed us."

- Dunedin 50, Tarpon Springs 46

Jalisa Stone had 18 points and Cara Trudell contributed 16 more to lead Dunedin.

Dunedin (7-1) led 22-12 after one quarter, but Tarpon Springs outscored the Falcons 12-3 in the second quarter to get back into the game. Dunedin led by one after three quarters before holding on for the four-point victory.

Alli Corbett (16 points), Samantha Henderson (14 points) and Nicole Crafton (10 points) all scored in double figures for Tarpon Springs, which dropped to 2-5.


- Clearwater Central Catholic 43, Keswick Christian 34

CCC got a game-high 16 points from 6-foot-6 junior center Paul Freedman, and the Marauders jumped out to a 13-3 lead after one quarter.

The Marauders (4-1) played their second game without leading scorer Eric Segert (averaging 27 points a game), who is sitting out several games to focus on academics. In its first game without Segert, CCC struggled to find any offense in a 52-41 loss to Indian Rocks Christian, the Marauders only loss of the season.

Against Keswick (2-3), CCC used its size advantage to get the ball inside to Freedman, who scored early and often.

"We're trying to overcome the loss of Eric," said CCC head coach Jeff Segert, who is Eric's father. "We're trying to regroup with a new identity offensively until we get Eric back, hopefully after the holiday tournaments."

Against Keswick, CCC had eight players score, but only Freedman finished in double figures.

"We're going to have to find ways to score without Eric for a while," Segert said.


- Clearwater Central Catholic 3, St. Petersburg Catholic 0

CCC avenged a 3-1 loss to SPC last week by shutting out the Barons in Clearwater.

The game remained scoreless until, with just 10 minutes remaining, Morgan Kimsey dribbled down the end line past a SPC defender and slotted a perfect pass in front of the goal to Lindsey Cooper, who was able to finish for the 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later Kelly Campbell scored for CCC to give the Marauders an insurmountable 2-0 lead, and Cooper notched her second goal of the night with two minutes remaining.

SPC goalkeeper Kristen Russell was injured after a collision midway through the second half and did not return to the game. The extent of her injury is unknown.