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.