COUGARS 51 HURRICANES 45
By Eric Horchy | Suncoast NewsCLEARWATER - Host Countryside weathered two strong Palm Harbor University surges – one early and one late – to hold on for a 51-45 victory on opening day of the AvMed Health Cougar Classic Wednesday night.
Published: January 3, 2013
Published: January 3, 2013
Adjusting to the loss of forward Mike Love, absence of Jared Siminski and limited play from point guard Bobby Held, Countryside (9-5) earned its victory despite some unevenness on both ends of the court.
The Cougars went up 6-0 to start the game but watched as PHU and guard Joe Pigozzo responded with an 11-0 spurt of their own. Pigozzo (team-high 14 points) was in on three straight buckets during the run, hitting a 3-pointer from the right corner, driving and dishing to Jared Piotrowski for an easy layup and then working down low with a head fake, spin and lay in.
The Hurricanes (2-10) took a 17-12 lead into the second quarter, though Countryside guard Valon Xhokli tempered PHU’s momentum grab by dropping a half-court 3 at the buzzer. Xhokli got the start at point Wednesday as Held recently returned to the team from a vacation.
Cougars team captain Darnell Lovett battled through a slow start of his own to eventually lead all scorers with 16.
"I’ve been in a little bit of a shooting slump, so I’m just trying to go to the hole and get myself easier shots," said Lovett, who scored the majority of his points around the basket.
Lovett’s two consecutive baskets midway through the second quarter allowed Countryside to go ahead for good and were part of a 10-2 run to end the half. One of those two Lovett hoops was a put-back at the rim off a Xhokli miss. Countryside out-rebounded the Hurricanes 28-20 overall, but 12-2 on the offensive glass.
The Cougars expanded their lead to 12 points, 42-30, by the end of the third quarter, but PHU had one push left.
Hurricanes senior Tyler Holmquist caught fire for eight-straight points early in the fourth, starting with two 3’s from the left side and then a steal and breakaway lay up. Holmquist finished with 13 points.
That outburst capped a 10-0 PHU run and brought the score to 42-40, but the ‘Canes were unable to get back ahead.
Countryside received a little late breathing room when Chris Crawford found Kam Smith with a nice pass under the hoop for a converted and-one layup and free throw with less than a minute left.
"We know what to do but I think we looked for Darnell too much," Cougars coach Myron Huey said. "We had a couple of other guys that really stepped up. I thought Fish [Chris] Crawford and Kam Smith really stepped up."
Crawford (10 points) and Smith (11 points) joined Lovett and Xhokli (10 points) as the four Cougars scoring in double figures. Lovett turned in the night’s lone double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds.
Countryside now moves on to play Venice (5-7) tomorrow night at 8. Venice advanced after beating Lakewood Ranch.
The other semifinal will be at 6:30 between Gibbs High and Miami Christian. Gibbs took out East Lake earlier on Wednesday, 65-41, and Miami Christian beat Lakeland.
East Lake will take on Lakeland tomorrow at 3 p.m. and Lakewood Ranch will meet PHU at 4:30.
Palm Harbor - 17 – 6 – 7 – 15 --- 45
Countryside - 12 – 19 – 11 – 9 --- 51