By Ben Murphy
For most teams a 20-point win over a team with just one loss would be satisfying. But the Clare Lady Pioneers aren’t quite satisfied with their 52-32 non-conference win over visiting Montabella Tuesday night.
“We grinded it out tonight,” Clare head coach Matt Rodenbo said. “I thought the girls showed some character. They didn’t play their best but a lot credit goes to the fact that Montabella is a good team.”
The Lady Mustangs actually had a 1-0 lead for the first two minutes of the game, with Clare getting on the board with a Corrine Wezensky free-throw to tie the game at 1-1 with 5:33 to play in the first.
30 seconds later Melissa Benchley putback a teammate’s miss to give Clare a 3-1 cushion and a three-pointer by Courtney English gave the Lady Pioneers a 6-1 lead.
Montabella’s Sarah Miller hit two charity shots to make the score 6-3, but Lindsay Winter knocked down a fade-away shot from the left elbow to make it 8-3, with Winter later adding a free-throw to make it 9-3. The Mustangs closed the quarter with a three-pointer by Miller to close the frame down 9-6.
Benchley fired a crisp pass to Winter under the hoop early in the second frame, with Winter finishing with a basket despite getting fouled. Winter drained the ensuing free-throw to give Clare a 12-6 advantage.
The Pioneers took a 22-12 lead on a Liz Fancon hoop, with Benchley closing the half with a deep two-pointer on the left side of the court to give Clare a 24-14 lead at the break.
Wezensky started off the second half with an easy layup thanks to a long pass from Benchley and Winter followed that up with a steal and a basket on the ensuing in-bounds play. Moments later, Winter added another steal and raced to the other end for a fast-break basket to make it 30-14 just over a minute into the third.
A putback basket by Alex Stark increased Clare’s lead to 36-17 later in the frame, helping the Pioneers carry a 36-21 lead entering the fourth.
“I thought we played well in the second half,” Rodenbo said. “I thought we were passing the ball well and I liked how we pushed the ball down the floor.”
Clare continued to cruise in the fourth quarter, pulling ahead 46-23 on a putback by English, and took its biggest lead at 52-26 on a mid-range basket by Amanda Yats.
The Mustangs closed the game on a 6-0 run to account for the 52-32 final.
“Montabella came out and gave us their best shot,” Rodenbo said. “They were scrappy. We’re not going to press teams into submission every time.”
Winter led Clare with 14 points and nine rebounds, Benchley had 12 points English added nine, Stark added six points and six rebounds and Petree scored two points and grabbed nine boards.
On Friday, Dec. 14 Clare upended host Meridian 61-20 in a Jack Pine Conference contest.
The Lady Pioneers opened with a 21-6 lead after the first quarter, getting 14 points from Winter and seven from English.
Clare outscored the Lady Mustangs 22-2 in the second to lead 43-8 at the half, getting seven points from Winter and six from Wezensky in the frame.
Meridian outscored Clare 11-8 in the third frame to make it 43-20 after three, thought Clare kept the Mustangs scoreless in the fourth to ice the game.
Clare was led by Winter with 26 points, English added 12 and Wezensky netted 10.
Clare (5-1 overall, 4-0 JPC) returns to action on Jan. 3, hosting JPC foe Roscommon.