LARGO — Coming off an impressive, three-win tournament championship at Nature Coast Tech last weekend, Tarpon Springs needed about 16 minutes to get back in gear.
Tarpon Springs exploded in the second half of Thursday night’s Indian Rocks Christian Holiday Tournament and went on to trounce Clearwater Central Catholic, 90-61.
“We really just needed to wake up and start playing our game,” said Spongers junior Scottie James, who poured in a season-high 33 points. “We had foul trouble the whole first half and we had our point guard [Trai Halton] out.”
Tarpon Springs went into the break up just one point, 34-33, after playing a lethargic, uncharacteristically sloppy first half. Coach Jerry Woodka agreed with his star forward that Halton’s absence, due to three early fouls, kept the Spongers’ offense from finding any rhythm.
“We had to take our point guard out of the mix and then no one else seemed to want to handle the ball, nobody else wanted to penetrate,” he said. “Without the penetration my bigs are standing around watching.”
With its standard starting five on the court to start the second half, though, Tarpon Springs displayed the type of game that has it off to one of the best starts in school history (15-2).
“In the third quarter we started running a little bit, we got some easy shots, and when Scottie started hitting from the perimeter, the game was over,” Woodka said.
James hit three of his four 3-pointers in the third period and his 16 points in those 8 minutes outpaced CCC’s team total of 15.
Tied 38-38 shortly after halftime, Halton was responsible for a two-play, five-point burst that ignited the Spongers’ turnaround. The junior transfer from New Smyrna Beach hit a pull-up 3 from the top of the key and then dished to a wide-open James under the hoop for the second bucket about 10 seconds later.
The 90 points is the most Tarpon Springs has scored since hitting the same total last season during a holiday tournament win on Dec. 28 over Keswick Christian.
Forwards Mitch Wilcox (17 points) and Israel Atkins (14 points) also scored in double-digits for Tarpon Springs.
Andrew Murphy (15 points), Mike Demaio (11 points) and Justin Reed (10 points) paced the Marauders.
The Spongers will try to secure their second holiday tournament title trophy in less than a week tomorrow night against Seffner Christian. The Crusaders beat host Indian Rocks Christian earlier in the night, 47-45.
Tarpon Springs picked up three impressive victories over Jefferson, Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate and Nature Coast Tech to win the inaugural Nature Coast Tech Christmas Tournament last week.
TS - 20 – 14 – 35 – 21 --- 90
CCC - 20 – 13 – 15 – 13 --- 61
Scottie James – 33 points (4 3-pointers)
Israel Atkins – 14 points
Clearwater Central Catholic (1-9)
Andrew Murphy – 13 points