The Clear Lake Falcons amped up their defensive intensity to start the second half, which allowed them to turn the game in their favor in a 66-62 road win Saturday afternoon against the Clear Falls Knights.
“Our pressure has been our staple all year, and I really felt like we did a good job of making them make quick decisions,” Clear Lake head boys basketball coach Tommy Penders said. “We did a good job of shooting gaps and getting our defensive hands on the ball, and then we actually turned those steals into quick points by being smart on the break, as well.”
The victory was an especially important one for Clear Lake (3-1 in District 24-6A) following a rugged 57-53 overtime loss to Dickinson just the night before in what is shaping up to be a district deep with talent, Penders said.
“The last two years, (the district) has been the best it’s been in my 12 years here at Clear Lake; 24-6A is just an absolute war zone,” Penders said.
The Knights took a 38-32 lead into the halftime break, but Clear Lake utilized that aforementioned pressure defense to hold Clear Falls scoreless for the first 5:28 of the third quarter.
During Clear Falls' dry spell, the Falcons scored 12 unanswered points, the final four of which came on a pair of hustle plays — a steal and fast-break layup and an offensive rebound and put-back bucket — from Aidan Wood.
Clear Lake answered Clear Falls’ first points of the third quarter, which came on a nice drive to the hoop by Corey Kelly, with a 3-pointer from Wood and Lawrence Brown attacking the basket for two, and the Falcons went on to take a 51-42 lead into the final frame.
Ahead 62-50, the Falcons then had to survive a furious Knights rally in the game’s final 2 minutes. Eight points from Carson Lindsey and four points from Tyler Sillen-Hopkins fueled a 12-2 Clear Falls scoring sprint, and Lindsey’s second 3-pointer of the Knights’ late charge got it to a one-possession game at 64-62 with 10 seconds left on the game clock.
In the end, though, it was Wood who proved to be the Falcons’ savior with two clutch plays — first grabbing an offensive rebound on a missed free throw, and then making both of his ensuing free throws to ice the game.
Early on, the Knights rode the hot outside shooting of Sillen-Hopkins, whose three 3-pointers helped Clear Falls jump out to a 13-4 first quarter lead.
The Falcons responded with an 8-0 run, though, bookended by a 3-pointer and a pair of made free throws by Von Wells.
The teams went back-and-forth from there until Clear Falls compiled an 8-0 run toward the end of the second quarter. Tied 29-29 following a Brown 3-pointer, Kelly led the Knights' run with a pair of nice moves for points in the paint and a 3-ball from the top of the key.
Wood led the Falcons with 17 points, while close behind was Wells with 15 points. Brown added 12 points, and Alex Lee finished with 11 points — all of which came in the first half before he was sidelined with an injury.
Sillen-Hopkins was the Knights’ leading scorer with a game-best 21 points, which included six made 3-pointers. Kelly tallied 16 points and five rebounds, and Lindsey had 14 points and seven rebounds. Austin Navarro was the game’s leading rebounder with nine boards for Clear Falls.
Up next for Clear Lake is a 7 p.m. Tuesday home game against the 14-0 overall and 3-0 in district play Clear Brook Wolverines.
Clear Falls (3-1 in district) will next host Dickinson (2-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.