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CLEARWATER - No matter the outcome of Tuesday night's game, Pinellas Park already knew it had a successful season.
How successful, though, depended on what happened against a talented Clearwater team that has a few intimidating frontline players and a history of dominating the Patriots.
The stakes were high, and the challenge was immense.
And Pinellas Park met it with a 60-54 victory.
The win means the Patriots now are the front-runner to represent the north in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. More importantly, it gave Pinellas Park the satisfaction of knowing it did something special.
"It's a big win for us, but this is the first round of probably three meetings with (Clearwater)," Patriots coach Allen Carden said.
After the Tornadoes opened with a 6-3 lead, Pinellas Park answered with a 10-0 run and never trailed after that.
The Patriots (16-2) played air-tight defense and hit timely 3-pointers to go up 27-25 at halftime, a lead that increased to 41-33 at the end of the third quarter.
Clearwater (14-2) rallied to cut it to 55-50 but never got closer as Cam Carden and Jake Troyli each hit a pair of free throws for the Patriots to seal the game.
"We never got that shot that got us over the hump," Tornadoes coach Jack Coit said. "Overall, I thought it was a good high school game."
Regan O'Rourke (17) and Luke Loucks (15) were the only Clearwater players to reach double digits in scoring. Pinellas Park was led by Troyli (20) and Cam Carden (16).
Both teams meet in the rematch at Pinellas Park on Jan. 18.