Ticket gets punched

(Above) Coach Jeremey Ainley celebrates with his team following their 63-53 victory over Charles City in the Class 3A sub-state championship game played Tuesday, Feb. 26.  -Reporter photos by Chris Barragy

by Marianne Gasaway

The Clear Lake Lions punched their ticket to the State basketball tournament with a thrilling 63-53 victory over Charles City in the Class 3A substate championship game played in front of a capacity crowd at the Mason City High School gym Tuesday, Feb. 26.  The win put the team at 23-0 and broke a 40-year drought from State tournament action for the boys team.

“This win was for Clear Lake – the fans, the community and all the basketball teams that fell short in the last 40 years!” said Coach Jeremey Ainley after the game.

The Lions were down 26-22 at the half, but freshman Carson Toebe caught fire in the second half.  Five three-pointers by Toebe helped the team to outscore the Comets 27-16 in the third quarter and hold on to the lead until the end. Toebe finished with a team-high 24-points, with 22 of those being scored in the second half.  His second half heroics included six straight three-pointers.  He was six-for-11 from beyond the arc in the game.

“At half time we were able to regroup a little bit and focus on getting stops in the second half and let our depth and length wear on them,” said Clear Lake Coach Jeremey Ainley.  “We made some shots in the third quarter to regain the lead and then in the fourth really shut them down on offense.”

The Lions started out cold, sinking only three of 16 shots in the first quarter and finishing the period down, 13-10.  Better shots in the second quarter kept them nearly even with the Comets, but they still trailed, 26-22.

“I told the kids we just needed to keep doing what we were doing,” said Ainley about his halftime conversation with the team.  “I knew we could win with man defense and they did it.  It’s what we are. We rebounded well and started to make some shots.  We didn’t panic.”

The Lions grabbed the lead with five-minutes remaining in the third quarter.  Senior Tate Storbeck drained a three-point shot to put the Lions on top, 30-29.  The lead switched back and forth four times before settling at 38-38 with about 3:30 to go in the period.  Toebe’s fifth trey provided a seven-point lead, 49-42, which lasted through the remainder of the quarter.

The Comets clawed their way back to a three-point deficit, 49-46, but that was as close as they could get.   Charles City’s season ended with a record of 14-8.

Drew Enke was also in double figures for the Lions.  The senior poured in 15 points and joined Andrew Formanek as leaders on the boards with 10 rebounds apiece.

Coach Ainley also praised Enke for his defensive work against the Comets’ leading scorer, Jackson Molstead.  Molstead was held to 19-points in the game, which was 10 below his season average.  Most importantly, Molstead scored only five of his points in the second half.

Jaylen DeVries finished with nine points and eight rebounds for the Lions.  Storbeck had nine points and six rebounds.

Kody Kearns and Formanek scored four and two-points respectively.

“It was a great game with a great atmosphere,” said Coach Ainley.  “We (coaching team) have been here five years and have received incredible support.  The kids bought into the program and have done everything we asked of them.  They have believed in us.”

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