By Ben Murphy
A bad first quarter hurt visiting Clare’s chances of upsetting Jack Pine Conference leading Merdian on Friday, as the Pioneers suffered a 52-29 league loss.
“We played a good game,” Clare head coach Rob Wise said despite the setback. “We handled their press fairly well but we couldn’t make a shot. We shot 22 percent from the floor.”
Meridian took an early 15-4 lead after the first quarter and led 20-10 at the half. The Mustangs put the game away in the third, outscoring Clare 17-11 to lead 37-21 entering the fourth.
Connor Clickner led Clare with seven points, on a night when all nine players scored for the Pioneers. Scott Smith added six points with Sam Adkins and Colton Punches both scoring four points.
On Wednesday, Feb. 5 the Pioneers played in Harrison, and picked up a 64-55 JPC win.
Clare led 22-10 after the first quarter but the Hornets got back in the game and closed the gap to 31-29 by the half.
“We made some adjustments in the second half quarter to our defense and picked up our intensity on offense,” Harrison head coach Jim Hoshield said. “My boys played their hearts out but Clare pounded the ball underneath with some tough passes and took the game over. Our team has no quit in them and I am very proud of the way they fought back from a deep hole starting off the game.”
Harrison pulled even closer to 44-43 entering the fourth, where the Hornets took a 51-47 lead with 3:30 to play.
Punches hit a pair of three pointers to put Clare back on top and the Pioneers pulled away to the 64-55 win.
“We did a nice job making free throws down the stretch to maintain the lead,” Wise said.
Punches led Clare with 19 points and 11 rebounds, Mason Packard had 13 points, six rebounds and five steals and Smith had 11 points.
Harrison was led by Michael Taylor with 15 points, Matt Haskell had 12, Justin Yager had 10, Brett Coughlin had nine and Clay Dennis added eight.
Clare (11-4 overall, 7-3 JPC) played at Houghton Lake on Wednesday, plays at Roscommon tonight (Friday) and plays again on Feb. 21, hosting Farwell.
Harrison also hosted Farwell on Friday in another JPC game, falling 57-50.
Yager and Coughlin both hit first period threes but the Hornets fell behind 17-11 after the first. Coughlin hit another three in the second but the Hornets could only add one more field-goal as they fell behind 32-16 by the half.
Harrison came back to make it 39-30 entering the fourth, and despite nine points by Coughlin and a three by Danilo Vukcevic the Hornets couldn’t get much closer, falling 57-50.
Coughlin led Harrison with 22 points, Yager had eight points and Todd Stier had five.
Harrison (3-10, 3-7) hosted Coleman on Wednesday, plays at Gladwin tonight (Friday) and hosts Marion on Tuesday.