An energetic start and poised finish helped the Clear Lake Falcons to a 74-69 win over the Dickinson Gators on Friday at Krueger Field House.
“In the last about 10 days, we haven’t come out as strong as we normally do, so we wanted to come out strong defensively, and sometimes when you do that defensively, your offense gets in gear a little bit faster,” Clear Lake head coach Tommy Penders said.
The result creates a four-way tie for first place in District 24-6A with Dickinson, Clear Lake, Clear Creek and Clear Springs now all holding a 7-2 conference record.
“We dropped one, and we’re back in the pack again,” Dickinson head coach Jason Wilson said. “We just have to continue to get better. Teams continue to get better throughout each year. We want to make sure that we are continuing to improve, just like other teams.”
After Dickinson’s Tramon Mark (22 points, five rebounds) made the game’s first basket, Clear Lake went on a 12-2 run in a balanced effort that saw four different starters score at least one field goal, led by five points by Jamail Pink (13 points).
“They brought the fight early with their energy, especially their backcourt,” Wilson said. “They beat us to every loose ball and made everything tough for us.”
The Gators responded with nine unanswered points to regain the lead in a run sparked by a converted and-one by Jalen Wydermyer (11 points, 10 rebounds) and capped off by a 3-pointer from Nate Randle (10 points).
A basket by Pink gave Clear Lake a 16-15 lead at the end of the first quarter — a lead the Falcons never relinquished. But, the Gators kept things close throughout the game.
Clear Lake started the second quarter on a 9-2 run, but Dickinson answered with a 9-2 run of its own, capped by a circus shot lay-in and converted and-one by Mark.
Another circus shot and and-one — this time converted by Randle — tied the game at 29-29, but a basket by Riley Abercrombie (six points, five rebounds) gave the Falcons a 31-29 lead at halftime.
An 11-2 run to start the second half saw Clear Lake open up a 42-31 lead. The Falcons put an exclamation mark on the scoring spurt with a slick pass from Ajare Sanni (24 points, six assists) to Jeremiah Maldonado (15 points, eight rebounds) for a layup. The Sanni-Maldonado connection would be huge for the Falcons later in the game.
The Gators ended the third quarter on a 9-2 run, which was ignited by a 3-pointer from Quante Julien (17 points), and trailed 50-49 heading into the final frame.
A 3-pointer by Sanni, a Dickinson technical foul, and back-to-back excellent assists from Sanni to Maldonado for a pair of layups helped give Clear Lake a 65-55 lead with 2:41 remaining in the game.
“We showed a lot of poise; we didn’t unravel,” Penders said. “We wanted to find ways to get it in the paint, whether it was through the drive or the dump-down pass. I thought that our guards did a good job of finding Maldonado underneath. And Maldonado is a special player. That’s kind of what he does; he’s kind of a layup artist.”
Some late Gators 3-pointers helped chip away at Clear Lake’s advantage, but the lead was too much to overcome.
Zaid Harris also scored in double digits for Clear Lake with 11 points.
Both teams are back on the floor 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Gators will have another crucial game next when they host Clear Springs. Clear Lake looks to take care of business at Clear Falls (2-7 in district).