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Clearwater falls in Class 5A state semifinals

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There was plenty of Plantation American Heritage defense and a gracious dose of layups from the start. Big-plays abounded for the Patriots, including a buzzer-beating shot by four-star recruit Sydney Shaw .

Still, despite its stellar play, American Heritage had just a 10-point lead over Clearwater in the first quarter of Thursday’s Class 5A state semifinal. No time for the Tornadoes to panic considering they still had plenty of it left to stage a comeback.  

But the Patriots were just too much to handle. They wanted more. And they took it.

By halftime, the three-time defending state champions were ahead 37-15. That was more than enough for American Heritage to advance with a  66-29 victory. 

It was not that the Tornadoes were bad. It was just that the Patriots were so good.

American Heritage had more depth, more big-time experience and more of most other good things.

Clearwater had a willingness to mix it up and never quit, but the Tornadoes missed some shots, turned the ball over frequently and simply wore down.

With all those pluses on one side and the minuses on the other, the game quickly turned in the Patriots’ favor.

The turnovers were costly. American Heritage took advantage, outscoring Clearwater 34-2 in points off turnovers. Shaw, who has had an offer from Miami since she was in middle school, led the Patriots in scoring with 20 points, followed by Tatyana Wyche with 14 and Joey Delancey with 10. 

Liv Fuller scored a team-high 13 and had six rebounds for the Tornadoes, who were making their first state semifinal appearance since 2007. 

Despite the loss, Clearwater’s players were able to take solace in knowing they had a future together. The Tornadoes had only one senior on the roster and are expected to have an influx of talented freshmen arriving next season, making them a favorite to not just get back to the state semifinals but to win it all. 

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The PTP girls lacrosse players of the week

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The fans’ pick

Avery Smith, So., Cypress Creek

As a freshman last year, Avery Smith had quite a debut, scoring 50 goals in an abbreviated 10-game season. 

The scoring continued this year, so much that Smith compiled 150 points in her high school career before her sophomore season ended. 

Entering last week, Smith ranked second in the area in goals (71) and points (90) to help the Coyotes earn the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A, District 5 tournament. She added to her total by scoring 11 more goals in three games to lead Cypress Creek to a district title. 

Fans took notice. Smith received more than 60 percent of the votes (3,141) to beat out Steinbrenner’s Taylor Lapointe (1,311 votes). 

The PTP pick

Chloe Norman, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Led the area in goals with 88 entering the week and finished the season with 100. 

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General

The PTP boys lacrosse players of the week

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The fans’ pick

Nicholas Vreeland, Jr., Cypress Creek

Whenever Cypress Creek needs offensive production, it can turn to Nicholas Vreeland. 

The Coyotes’ go-to player has been consistent at putting the ball through the net. He has scored at least two goals in every game and has racked up five or more eight times this season. 

That helped Vreeland put up some impressive numbers. He finished the season with 67 goals, which currently leads the area and ranks third in the state and fourth in the nation.

Fans were impressed. Vreeland received more than 52 percent of the votes (6,531) to beat out Newsome’s Luke Haley, who had 37 percent (4,660 votes).

The PTP pick

Luke Haley, Jr., Newsome: Led the area in points with 106 and assists with 50 entering last week. 

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Baseball

Saturday sports schedule

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What to watch

Berkeley Prep (18-3) at Jesuit (20-1), 1

Both teams are ranked among the top seven in the state in their respective classifications by MaxPreps (the Buccaneers are No. 7 in 3A and the Tigers are No. 1 in 5A). 

The schedules

Baseball

Shorecrest at Canterbury, 10

Jefferson at Newsome, 10

Steinbrenner at Durant, 10

Strawberry Crest at Hillsborough, 11

Clearwater at IMG Royal, 12

Freedom at King, 1

Lennard at Leto, 1

Mitchell at IMG Gray, 1

Berkeley Prep at Jesuit, 1

Softball

Naples Longshore Tournament

Calvary Christian vs. Immokalee, 10:30

Calvary Christian vs. Naples Barron Collier, 12:30

Doral Academy vs. Sickles, 12:30

Other games

Middleton at Durant, 10

Spoto at Tampa Bay Tech, 10

Wesley Chapel at Academy of the Holy Names, 12

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