(Above) Clear Lake’s Gretchen Jones drives to the basket against an Algona defender. The 54-51 victory gave the Lions an opportunity to take another run at the State tournament. -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy
The Clear Lake girls basketball team is on its way back to the State Tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Lions (22-2) earned the trip with an exciting 54-51 victory over Algona Saturday night. They will begin State competition with a 3:15 p.m. match against Monticello Tuesday, Feb. 27.
Saturday’s game was the third win over the Bulldogs this season for the Lions. Like the previous games— decided in overtime by four points and in regulation by five, the sub-state battle was exactly that— a battle.
The leading scorers for both teams were held in check throughout much of the game, thanks to strong defensive play. Algona’s Abbey Holmes, who averaged 16.7 points per game, was held to just two points. Likewise, Clear Lake’s Sara Faber, who averaged 16.9 points, had just six in the first half.
But it was Algona’s determination to get the ball to their scorer, Holmes, that was their downfall.
Trailing by three-points, with six-seconds left in the game, the Bulldogs pulled down a rebound and quickly called timeout to set up a final play. They successfully got the ball inbounds, but couldn’t get it to Holmes, who was double-teamed. The final buzzer sounded without a final shot being taken.
Smith said that he instructed his team to give the Bulldogs a two-pointer and just guard the arc.
“That is regional final girls basketball at its best,” said Clear Lake Coach Bart Smith. “We were both evenly matched and a game like that comes down to who can make more winning plays and senior leadership!”
Senior leadership was crucial to the Lions.
Chloe Mueller shut down Holmes and made a clutch free throw at the end to extend the Lions’ lead to three points. Jordyn Barragy played the whole second half and had some key buckets when the Lions were down by six in the middle of the third period and Gretchen Jones made a huge three to put Clear Lake in the lead midway through the third period, 33-32.
In addition to this three seniors, Coach Smith noted all of his players contributed to the win.
“I thought Zoe (Fasbender) had a really good defensive game. Lexi (Fasbender) had a good offensive night. Sara (Faber) did her usual thing, and Merf (Julia Merfeld) had a productive night off the bench for us. It was a total team effort and I’m really proud of how we got this win!”
Faber scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the second half— nine of them in the fourth quarter. Barragy finished with 14 points and Lexi Fasbender had 12. Mueller scored five points, while Merfeld and Jones had three apiece.
The Lions had 31 rebounds in the game, led by Barragy with seven and Zoe Fasbender with six. Merfeld grabbed five.
“This was who we wanted to play,” said Smith after the game. “Our girls are mentally tough and we knew it would take a total team effort to win. Our focus was to stop Holmes and we did a lot of things right to get this win. This was one of my funnest wins I’ve had here. I loved how we played. I loved our heart.”
Smith said his team would enjoy the win for a day or two and then get ready for State, which begins at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Clear Lake is slated to take on Monticello, which upset undefeated Osage, 59-33, in their sub-state game.
Smith said he is learning Monticello has two guards averaging 16 and 14 points, as well as a 6’2” post who scores nine points a game. They also have some length which can guard the perimeter, he said. “They really like to get out in transition. They play a 1-3-1 half court defense with a little man-to-man mixed in from time to time.”
All Lion fans are invited to a send-off for the Clear Lake High School girls basketball game before they head to Des Moines for the State Tournament. The send-off will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb 26, in the high school gymnasium.
CL 51, IF-A 30
The third time was definitely not the charm for Iowa Falls-Alden, as the Lions trounced their Regional opponent, 51-30, Wednesday, Feb. 14. The Lions shot at 47 percent in the contest To read more of this article, please login or sign up for our E-Edition