The youthful Clear Creek Wildcats got a tough early-season teaching moment as they saw a 20-point lead wiped out and took a 49-46 loss against the Fort Bend Hightower Lady Hurricanes at Butler Gym on Monday night.
“We haven’t played a team of (Hightower’s) caliber yet, with that speed,” Clear Creek head coach Kristi Odom said. “So, that was really good for us before district to try to prepare for some of our opponents.”
Clear Creek, which features five sophomores and two freshmen getting significant court time, came to play against the favored Lady ‘Canes, forcing 13 first-quarter turnovers en route to taking a 20-2 lead at the end of the opening frame.
After Hightower’s Winnie Kuimi (eight points, 14 rebounds) scored the game’s opening basket off an offensive rebound, Clear Creek went on a 20-0 run to end the opening period in a balanced effort led by junior point guard DeAzhia Smith (game-high 14 points).
“The kids did a really good job of executing the game plan in the first quarter,” Odom said. “When Hightower began to get some buckets and were able to put some pressure on us, it was a little bit different.”
A bucket by Smith gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at 29-9 at the 3:26 mark of the second quarter, but then Hightower began steadily chipping away at the deficit. A basket down low from Hightower’s Kaniya Brown got the Wildcats’ lead down to just 13 points, 34-21, at the halftime break.
A 3-point play the old-fashioned way from Aresa Gipson (10 points, nine rebounds) sparked Hightower and cut Clear Creek’s advantage down to single digits, 37-29, at the 4:50 mark of the third quarter.
With Clear Creek leading 40-31, Hightower ended the final 1:10 of the third quarter on a 6-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Ashlyne Steen (11 points, five rebounds) 2.6 seconds ahead of the buzzer.
Steen scored a layup off a Wildcats turnover to tie the game, 42-42, at the 6:06 mark of the fourth quarter, and moments later, a pair of free throws by Destini Lombard (four points, four rebounds, three blocks) gave Hightower its first lead since the early stages of the game.
A nice post move by junior Macie Illyes (eight points) tied the game back up, 44-44, midway through the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer by Sydni Johnson (nine points, six rebounds) and a bucket by Gipson put the game on ice for Hightower.
While Clear Creek handily won the turnover battle in the first quarter, Hightower forced 18 turnovers in the final three periods while turning the ball over just 10 times. The Lady ‘Canes also dominated the boards in the last three quarters, out-rebounding Clear Creek, 36-20.
“We’ve got to be able to handle pressure,” Odom said. “It’s been something we’ve been working on. We have some good guards, we just have to work on better decision making.”
Other standouts for the Wildcats in Monday’s game included junior Lauren Sinclair (10 points, eight rebounds) and sophomore Savonnah Lewis (four points, 11 rebounds).
Up next, Clear Creek hosts the 60th Annual Peggy Whitley Classic tournament Thursday through Saturday. The Wildcats open the tournament 1:30 p.m. Thursday against Willis at back at Butler Gym.