Lions bow out of State Tournament early

(Above) The Clear Lake girls basketball team accepts the State trophy following the game at the Wells Fargo Arena.  Pictured front row (L-R): is Aspen Hill, Mallory Leisure, Lexi Fasbender, Chloe Mueller, Gretchen Jones, Mckenna Backhaus, Emily Snelling, Jessica Faber, Emilie Jandebeur, Julia Merfeld, Sara Faber and Kiersten Baalson.  Back row (L-R):  Manager Mattie Krause, Jordyn Barragy, Mikayla Vanderploeg, Taylor Krull and Rowan Fread.

Indians go on to win Class 3A title

Defending State Champion Pocahontas Area held Clear Lake to only five second half points on their way to a 46-22 victory in a Class 3A quarterfinal played Tuesday, Feb. 28.  The Indians advanced all the way to the championship game and claimed a victory over Sioux Center.

The Lions knew they faced an uphill battle against second ranked Pocahontas (25-1).  The Indians are led by  the state’s career scoring leader Elle Ruffridge.  During the game with the Lions, the senior also became Iowa’s career leader in assists with 795.  With her 11 points against the Lions, Ruffridge boosted her career scoring total to 2,881.  She also led her team with seven rebounds in the game.

The Lions used a slow down game to try to minimize Ruffridge’s attacks and disrupt the Indians’ typical face-paced, high-scoring style.

Clear Lake, which relied heavily on its defense in the post-season after the teams’ leading scorer Emily Snelling was sidelined with a knee injury, stymied the Indians early on.  The Lions started the game by forcing a Poky turnover, then held them scoreless for almost three minutes.

Back-to-back buckets gave the Indians a 5-0 lead, but Jordyn Barragy’s lay-up with 4:22 remaining in the first got the Lions on the board.  However five turnovers and missed scoring opportunities left the Lions behind, 10-2, at the end of the first quarter.

“Defensively, we did exactly what we wanted to do,” explained Head Coach Bart Smith.  “It was a total team effort defensively when guarding Pocahontas.  We controlled Elle and made it tough for her to get a shot off.  Sara (Faber) and Chloe (Mueller) played great defense on her all night.  Holding her to 11 points and just one field goal was something that no other team has done in her high school playing career.”

The results were better in the second quarter.  A Jessica Faber three-pointer quickly pulled the Lions within five, but the Indians answered the call and rattled off eight points before Barragy would give the Lions another score midway through the second.  Seven points was as close as Clear Lake would get.  The teams went into the break with Pocahontas ahead, 25-17.

“Offensively we controlled the tempo, but we were unable to make baskets.  We missed some easy scoring opportunities in the first half that might have given us better chance to keep it close in the third quarter.  The one thing you can’t allow Pocahontas to do is get on a scoring run because it’s hard to play catch up with all those scoring weapons,” said Coach Smith.

The Lions stuck with their game plan in the second half, but Pocahontas rattled off 15 straight points and took a 40-19 lead into the final quarter.

The Lions only score in the fourth was a three-second shot at the buzzer which dropped for Rowan Fread, one of a host of players who got their first experience on the Wells Fargo floor.

Jordyn Barragy led eighth-ranked Clear Lake with seven points and five rebounds, while Gretchen Jones and Jessica Faber each scored five points. Sara Faber added two points.

Grace Meyer led the second-ranked Indians with 16 points, including four three-pointers, while Faith Meyer scored nine.

“Pocahontas is a well-rounded team.  People don’t give enough credit to their defense because their offensive numbers and output is so good,” said Coach Smith.  “I thought they were the best defensive team down at state in Class 3A. They held Sioux Center to zero points in the fourth quarter in the championship game.

“Overall I was very proud of the effort we gave and we did the best we could and that’s all I ask,” added the coach.  “The girls should be very proud of their accomplishments this year and the journey we took to Wells Fargo.  We are still looking for that first round win down there and that something I hope our girls are hungry for as we go into the off-season this summer.’’

It was Clear Lake’s third trip to the State Tournament in four years.  They also fell to Pocahontas in their last appearance in 2015.   The Lions finished the 2016-17 season with a 21-4 record.  They were champions in the North Central Conference.

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