Lions remain perfect; one victory from a State berth

(Above) Clear Lake’s Nick Danielson keeps his eye on the action down court. -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy

By Marianne Gasaway

An 11-2 fourth quarter run, fueled by free throws, gave Clear Lake a 53-49 victory over Algona in a Class 3A Regional final Thursday night, Feb. 21.  The win kept the Lions’ season record perfect at 22-0 and put them one victory away from a State berth.

Clear Lake was slated to play Charles City in a Sub-State final Tuesday night, Feb. 26.  The game was originally scheduled for Monday, but was postponed due to the weather. Charles City handled Webster City, 70-45, on the other side of the Regional bracket.  Both teams were looking to return to State after long absences.  The Lions last qualified for State in 1979, while the Comets haven’t been to the big show since 1956.

Clear Lake Coach Jeremey Ainley said he was proud of his players’ ability to remain calm and focused down the stretch.

“It wasn’t looking good there for a while, but the kids never got down or panicked.  They continued to execute,” said Ainley.

After a close first quarter that ended with the Lions ahead, 10-8, Algona played slow ball and was successful in keeping the Lions from running and getting into a good offensive flow.  Each Bulldog possession consisted of throwing the ball around the horn for about one minute before finally taking a shot.  The halftime score was 19-14 Clear Lake.

The Lions finally broke the game open a bit in the third quarter and held as much as an eight-point lead, 22-14.  But by the end of the period Algona had cut the mead to one, 30-29, and momentum was in their favor.

Algona’s Spencer Nelson was on fire from beyond the three-point line.  The senior scored 18-points, all on treys.  Four of his five second-half treys came in the fourth quarter and helped the Bulldogs to a five-point lead with just over four-minutes to play.

Clear Lake senior Tate Storbeck grabbed an all-important rebound and scored with 3:40 left in the game to knot the score at 39-39.  Another Algona three, this time by Collin Bleich, put the Bulldogs back in the lead, 42-39, but Storbeck responded with another bucket to keep the Lions within one, 42-41.

Nelson drained two free throws and sunk a three to push Algona’s lead to 47-42 with two-minutes remaining, but the Lions remained determined.

A basket by Carson Toebe was followed by a key rebound by Jaylen DeVries. DeVries cleared the boards on a free throw miss by Nelson and got the ball to Storbeck to a layup to pull the Lions within one, 47-46.  DeVries immediately returned the ball to the Lions with a steal, then drove for a bucket and a Lion lead, 48-47.

Drew Enke extended the lead to three with a free throw and Storbeck tacked on two more points from the free throw line in the closing seconds.  A last second foul called on the Bulldogs put Andrew Formanek at the line for two more points with two-seconds on the clock.  The freshman sealed the deal, 53-49.

“We made enough stops down the stretch and when we needed them we got them,” said Coach Ainley.  “They slowed it down and we gambled defensively and got greedy at times,” said Ainley.  “We rushed too much.  We’ll work on that.”

Free throws were clearly the difference in the game, as the Lions finished plus-10 in that category.  The Lions made 17 of 25 attempts; the Bulldogs were 7/14.

Algona shot at 48 percent in the game (16/33), while Clear Lake was 17/40 for

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