Call them the come-back kids.
The Clear Lake Lions extended their win streak to 10 and won Thursday night in a nail biter over Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, 48-47. Since the Christmas break the Lions (16-4) have won 11 of 12 outings and are playing with confidence with the post-season on the horizon.
“We just kept telling them to keep believing. Keep believing,” said Coach Jeremey Ainley when asked about his halftime message to the Lions, who were trailing 24-18. “We knew they were a tough, well coached opponent with a couple of very good players in Nick Joynt and James Betz that would present some problems in the post. We felt our pressure defense and depth could cause some turnovers and wear them out in the end and we were able to get some of those turnovers and make our run in the fourth quarter.”
Clear Lake never led in the contest until the final 1:30 when Zach Lester scored his 10th point on an 8-2 run by the Lions. With fouls to give, Lester blocked a layup attempt by GHV’s Betz with 21-seconds left. The 6’7” Cardinal got the ball back, but his shot went off the rim. With 1.3 seconds remaining, Ryan Meyers threw up a long shot that missed the mark and the Lions celebrated the one-point win.
Coach Ainley praised the play of his defense, pointing out the Lions held the usually potent Cards to only eight points in the fourth quarter.
After scoring only 18 points in the first half, the Lions poured in 20 in the final eight minutes to come back from as much as a 15-point deficit in the second half.
The difference was 11 when the buzzer sounded at the end of three quarters, 39-28, and the Cards kept the pressure on with free throws to make it 41-28 early in the fourth. Two three-pointers by Tate Storbeck and another by Sam Pedelty closed the gap to seven, 43-37, before Betz stopped the bleeding by pulling down a rebound and taking it back up to score, 45-37.
Drew Enke drained a three-pointer and Lester scored a three the old-fashioned way to cut the Cards’ lead to two, 45-43.
Just after Jared Graham connected for a basket to provide a little breathing room for GHV, Pedelty stroked another three to pull the Lions within one, 47-46. Lester’s basket with 1:30 on the clock held up and the Lions got the win, 48-47.
“Clear Lake posed a few different problems for our team,” said GHV Coach Joe Albertson. “We had to contain a dynamic point guard, defend three-point shooters, and beat their press. Throughout most of the night we did a nice job breaking their press and containing their point guard, but we struggled getting out to their shooters at critical times.”
It was the second straight come-from-behind one point victory for Clear Lake, something Coach Ainley attributes to not only belief in themselves, but the pace of the game the Lions play.
“We wore them down and defended until the end. We knew our pace would win out,” he said.