After a slow start, the Clear Creek Wildcats heated up to knock off the Clear Falls Knights, 50-30, in a key District 24-6A matchup Friday at Clear Falls High School.
With the win, Clear Creek (5-4 in district) gains a slight inside track for a playoff spot, while Clear Falls (4-5) will have to make up some ground to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in the program’s seven-year history.
“It’s huge,” Clear Creek head coach Kristi Odom said. “It’s a tough district, and anyone on any night can play good defense and knock you off your spot.”
After winning a low-scoring first quarter, 8-4, Clear Falls built its largest lead of the game at 17-9 at the 2:30 mark of the second quarter. But, that’s when Clear Creek began to find its shooting groove to score eight unanswered points to end the first half.
Junior post Macie Illyes (six points, 12 rebounds) made a basket, and junior forward Lauren Sinclair (16 points, four rebounds) converted a 3-point play the old-fashioned way to cut the Knights’ lead to 17-14. Then, a 3-ball from junior DeAzhia Smith (seven points) with 14.4 seconds on the second quarter clock sent the teams into their locker rooms at halftime with the score knotted 17-17.
A dominant third quarter in which the Wildcats outscored Clear Falls, 19-2, proved to be the turning point in the game. Odom credited improved rebounding and better free throw shooting for the second-half turnaround.
“It’s been very inconsistent, and you can see that quarter to quarter, game to game, but they continue to grow and I love their effort and I love their hustle,” Odom said. “When they give that hustle and effort and play good defense, they can be really good.”
Clear Falls won the rebounding battle in the first half, 16-12, but Clear Creek had the edge on the boards in the second half, 14-8. The Wildcats drained 16 of 24 free throws in the second half, compared to 3-for-7 shooting in the first half. After missing their first two attempts, the Wildcats went 5-for-7 on 3-pointers. Clear Creek won the turnover battle, 11-6, in the second half and in the game, 21-15.
A Kendal Johnson (nine points) free throw to start the second half gave Clear Creek its first lead of the game. The Wildcats knocked down 4 of 6 free throw attempts, and then got a fast-break layup from Sinclair off a Knights turnover to cap off a 6-0 run to start the second half for a 23-17 lead.
Junior guard Jessica Epting’s (nine points) basket ended a 5:03 scoring drought for Clear Falls and ended a 14-0 run by the Wildcats. But, Clear Creek kept its proverbial foot on the pedal as the sophomore guard Johnson answered the Clear Falls score with a 3-pointer.
“We knew they were shooters; they have quite a few good shooters on their team,” Clear Falls head coach Shannon Osborne said. “You have to collapse on that penetration, and we’ve seen that kind of offense before. We run that kind of offense, very much a motion offense. We weren’t getting in a quick cover-out, and they hit some key threes to pull away.”
Clear Creek continued to pull away, as Clear Falls did not score again for a stretch of 7:55, with a free throw from sophomore post Josephine Adegbite at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter ending another extended scoreless period for the Knights.
“We knew that we graduated a lot of scoring and a lot of defense, and we just have new kids emerging and trying to figure this game out, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Osborne said.
A slick pass by Clear Creek sophomore guard Sam Simmons (six points) to Illyes for an open shot capped off the Wildcats’ third-quarter assault, and they took a commanding 36-19 lead heading into the final period.
Clear Creek’s defense held Clear Falls’ sharpshooting senior guard Kaylee Hernandez (eight points) scoreless through the first three quarters. The Knights were just 1-for-8 on 3-pointers (not making their first until the fourth quarter) and 7-for-16 on free throws (including just 2-for-7 in the second half).
Both teams return to action 7 p.m. Tuesday. Clear Creek continues a key slew of games at first-place Clear Springs (8-0). Clear Falls will try to rebound at Clear Brook (4-5).