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Clemente's Home Finale: Last-Second Win
BY ERIC KERNISH
5 February 2005
More than 100 fans came to say farewell to Calusa Prep senior Denis Clemente as he played his final home game against Florida Prep on Friday night at MacArthur South.
And Clemente, whose jersey was retired at halftime, rewarded them with the best parting gift: He drove the length of the floor for the winning basket as the buzzer sounded, giving the Colts a 77-75 come-from-behind victory.
Playing to a crowd chanting his name, Clemente, who signed with the University of Miami in November, scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and knocked down a three-pointer to tie the score again with less than two minutes left.
Clemente, who twice scored 50 points this season, finished with a game-high 34 points.
''You can't measure what he's done -- his abilities are off the charts,'' Calusa Prep coach Tim Fowler said. ``And it's not just his basketball playing ability -- it's his attitude and his humble spirit. He's also brought a competitive spirit to all of these kids.''
With UM coach Frank Haith and a coach from Puerto Rico's Under-21 National Team sitting in the stands, Clemente injected some of that spirit into his teammates as the Colts (15-5) fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first quarter.
Down by 12 at start of the second quarter, Calusa Prep cut the deficit to four by halftime. Then in the fourth, the Colts tied it with a pair of free throws by Clemente.
On Florida Prep's final possession, the Colts forced a turnover, Clemente scooped up the loose ball with seconds remaining and darted toward the basket for the winning layup as buzzer sounded.
''If he keeps his head screwed on, the sky's the limit,'' Fowler said. ``We really expect him to do well at UM next year, and we think he can play at the level beyond the next level.''
With Calusa Prep ineligible for the FHSAA playoffs this season, Clemente, who came in averaging 31.4 points, likely will finish as the county's leading scorer for the second year in a row.
''I'm very excited to have the opportunity to sign with UM and play for Frank Haith,'' said Clemente, who is related to the late baseball great Roberto Clemente.
FP (16-8): Melendez 17, Lopez 12, Patricio 20, Cuevas 6, Waters 10, James 10.
CP (15-5): Olemado 5, Rodriguez 14, Tillery 3, Ocasio 4, Pabon 4, Clemente 34, Henriquez 13.
Site: CP. Half: FP 43, CP 39. Three-pointers: Olemado, Clemente 2. Rebounds: Avero 8. Assists: Ocasio, Clemente 2. Fouled out: Waters. Technicals: Florida Prep Coach, Henriquez.