By Ben Murphy
Clare held a seven point lead entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s non-conference boys’ basketball game in Freeland. The Falcons owned the fourth however, storming back to top the Pioneers 73-69.
“I think we were kind of out of shape in the fourth,” Clare head coach Rob Wise said. “We’ve had 11 days without a game and we’ve missed a of practices because of snow days.”
Colton Punches hit an early three for Clare but Freeland jumped to a 15-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Scott Smith hit a short jumper and Mason Packard hit two free throws to make it 15-12 and two more free throws by Max Swan made the score 18-14 in favor of Freeland after the first.
The Falcons continued to lead, 27-22 with about three minutes left in the half, but back-to-back hoops by Punches and a put-back basket by Mason Packard gave Clare its first lead of the night at 28-27.
Seth Harton added a rebound and a basket to extend the Pioneer lead to 30-27 and after Freeland pulled back ahead 31-30 Sam Adkins closed the half with a three pointer, giving Clare a 33-31 lead at the break.
The Pioneers scored its first 12 points of the third quarter all in the paint, either on easy lay-ins, put-back baskets or drives to the hole, and another Adkins three pointer put Clare up 48-41 late in the frame.
“Our big guys played very well, our main goal is to get the ball inside and we did a good job at that,” Wise said.
Connor Clicker drove to the lane for another Clare basket, Travis Vida and Punches both hit a pair of free throws and Punches hit a pair of mid-range shots to give Clare a 58-51 lead entering the fourth.
Freeland stormed into the fourth by hitting a quick three pointer and added a two pointer after that, making it 58-56 and forcing Clare to call a timeout with 7:02 to play in the game.
Packard netted a lay-in to stem the bleeding momentarily and put Clare up 60-56, but Freeland went on a 7-0 run to take a 63-60 lead.
Swan answered with an and-one play to tie the game at 63-all, and after another Freeland bucket, Smith again tied the game with a pair of free throws at 65-65 with 2:26 to play.
The Falcons regained the lead at 69-65 and hit four free throws in the final 50 seconds to hang on for the 73-69 win.
“The fourth quarter got to us, we made some turnovers that we haven’t made all year,” Wise said. “We’ll be fine, Freeland is a pretty good team and we have a couple games to get ready for districts. I’m just glad it wasn’t a conference game. With 11 days off you never know what you’re going to get.”
Punches led the Pioneers with 15 points and six rebounds, Smith had 12 points, Swan had 11 points and six rebounds, Adkins had eight points, Clickner had four points and Vida had four points and six assists. Harton also had two points in the contest.
Clare (14-4 overall, 9-3 JPC) hosted Gladwin on Thursday and hosts Farwell on Saturday to wrap up the regular season. The Pioneers begin district play on Wednesday against Chippewa Hills.