After an evenly matched first half, the Clear Springs Chargers ratcheted up their defensive intensity in the third quarter to take a big lead and managed to stave off a late rally from a game Clear Creek Wildcats team for a 56-48 win at home Friday night.
“That’s what we asked for, and that’s what we needed,” Clear Springs head coach Pam Crawford said. “I think if we hadn’t had that, it would’ve been a different game.”
With a 24-23 halftime lead, Clear Springs utilized its trademark high-pressure defense to convert turnovers into easy transition baskets. After each team split a pair of free throws to start the third quarter, the Chargers scored 15 unanswered points to break open the close game.
“They started jumping hand-offs and ball screens, and we didn’t read that well, so it caused a few turnovers that we shouldn’t have had,” Clear Creek head coach Kristi Odom said.
Back-to-back floaters knocked down in the lane by Jermia Green and a steal and layup from McKenna Worrell kickstarted the key run. Niyah Johnson then knocked down a pair of free throws and swished a tough turn-around jumper to give the Chargers a double-digit lead at 35-24. Worrell got points in the paint on an offensive rebound and put-back and then was on the receiving end of a nice long pass from Green for an open layup.
In all, the Chargers forced 10 Wildcats turnovers in the third quarter and out-scored Clear Creek 23-11 to take a 47-34 advantage in the final period.
“I’m glad we kept our head in it and pulled it out,” Crawford said. “I was glad to get that gap. That’s what we talked about at halftime, that we’ve got to get out in front of these guys. We had to get a lead because we were fouling too much and stopping the clock too much.”
Trailing by as much as 53-37 with less than 3 minutes to play, the Wildcats rallied to make things interesting, embarking on an 11-1 run to cut Clear Springs’ lead to 54-48. Lauren Sinclair fueled the late run with its first seven points. But, with just 46.9 seconds left in the game, Clear Creek simply didn’t have enough time to mount an improbable comeback.
The two teams had eight ties and seven lead changes in a highly competitive first half. The Wildcats came out of the gates with an effective game plan attacking the basket for points in the paint. The strategy also led to 13 first-half fouls called on the Chargers, which put multiple key players in early foul trouble.
“I think (Tuesday) against Clear Falls, we lost that game in the paint, so it was important for us to really emphasize that in practice,” Odom said. “I’m really proud of their effort to execute the game plan.”
Clear Springs’ amped-up play in the second half saw Clear Creek commit 13 fouls in the final two periods, and the teams combined for 45 fouls (Clear Springs 23, Clear Creek 22) and a whopping 71 combined free throw attempts (Clear Creek 36, Clear Springs 35).
Freshman guard Kylie Minter led the Chargers in scoring with 17 points, and also pulled down six rebounds. Worrell added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Green finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
For Clear Creek, Sinclair had a game-high 18 points, and Eliya Ellis was the game’s top rebounder with 10 boards to go along with four points. Kendall Valois chipped in nine points and four rebounds.
Both teams return to action 7 p.m. Tuesday. Clear Springs (5-1 in District 24-6A) hosts Clear Falls (5-1) in a battle for first place in district. Clear Creek (3-3) will be looking to bounce back at Clear Brook (0-6).