By Ben Murphy
Through the first quarter Reed City looked like a team that might give host Clare fits all night long in its class ‘B’ district semi-final game Wednesday night. The Lady Pioneer defense changed that, holding the Lady Coyotes to just three points in the second quarter and cruised from there, winning 57-37.
“You have to give Reed City credit,” Clare head coach Matt Rodenbo said. “They hit a lot of shots early on but we held them to three points in the second quarter and that was key.”
The Pioneers led Reed City (10-10) just 20-17 late in the first quarter until a buzzer-beating three pointer from Lindsay Winter sent them into the second with a 23-17 lead.
Winter scored the first four points of the second quarter to give Clare a 27-17 lead, though R-C’s Makenzie Switzer hit a three to bring the score back to 27-20.
Alex Stark answered with a three ball of her own to put Clare back up 10 at 30-20 and fast-break baskets by Corrine Wezensky and Winter gave Clare a 34-20 lead at the half.
A deep two by Stark and a pass from Winter that found the hand of Olivia Cooper for an easy lay-in got Clare rolling in the third quarter, and Winter later put-back one of her rare misses on the night for a basket to give Clare a 43-28 lead.
Switzer hit another three for Reed City just before the end of the third, keeping the Coyotes in shouting distance at 43-31 entering the fourth.
The coach took note of his team’s hustle against a scrappy Coyote squad, which helped keep R-C behind 10 points for most of the night.
“It’s big to win 50/50 balls,” Rodenbo said. “It helps if you can get them against Reed City, they play hard and they are physical and they go after the ball.”
Kodi Humphrey had a put-back basket and an easy lay-in from another Winter pass that put Clare up 52-34 late in the game, with Cooper adding a free throw and Humphrey and Stark adding baskets in the final minute to bring the final to 57-37.
“In a tournament game it’s going to be less scoring but give Reed City credit, they had a great game plan coming in and executed it well,” Rodenbo said. “We were just fortunate enough shots to win.”
Reed City opened the game with a 2-0 lead, with Humphrey, Stark and Cooper all hitting close-range shots to give Clare a 6-2 lead. Another basket by Stark kept Clare ahead 8-4 and a Winter three pointer made it 11-4.
The Coyotes hit three three pointers the rest of the quarter to cut the gap to 19-17 late in the quarter, though Winter added a free throw and the buzzer beating three pointer to give Clare a 23-17 after one.
Winter led Clare with 26 points and eight assists, Humphrey had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Cooper had five points and Corrine Wezensky had three points and eight rebounds.
On Monday, Clare opened up the post-season with a 73-34 blowout win over Harrison.
“It is always nice to get off to a good start in the districts,” Rodenbo said. “We were able to rotate several players which is always good.”
Humphrey scored 10 points in the first quarter with Winter and Kenzie Humphrey both adding six to give Clare a 28-10 lead after the first and Winter netted eight more points in the second as Clare clipped to a 51-15 lead at the half.
Nicole Willman scored four points for Harrison in the third but it wasn’t nearly enough to get Harrison back in the game as the Pioneers scored 11 points in both the third and fourth quarters, while the Hornets scored nine in the third and 10 in the fourth.
Clare was led by Winter with 14 points, Kodi Humphrey had 13, Kenzie Humphrey had nine, Mackenzie Thayer and Wezensky both had eight, Morgan English had six, Amanda Yats had five, Alex Stark and Tara Pummell both had four and Lexi Harton scored three.
Harrison was led by Willman with 10 points, Lexi LaChappa had nine, Aja Heber had seven, Kate Sherrick had four and Makenzie Williams had three.
On Saturday, Clare wrapped up its fourth straight perfect Jack Pine Conference season, topping Farwell at home, 68-40.
“I was happy with our win over Farwell,” Rodenbo said. “I thought we did a nice job of taking control of the game early.”
Winter scored 11 points in the first quarter and Wezensky and Kodi Humphrey added six apiece as Clare jumped to a 23-11 lead after the first.
Winter and Wezensky added six points apiece in the second to push Clare’s lead to 40-17 at the half and Witner netted nine more points in the third to make it 57-33 entering the fourth.
Winter led Clare with 26 points, Wezensky had 17 and Kodi Humphrey had six. Wezensky had 15 rebounds, Winter had seven rebounds, five steals and five assists and Stark had eight assists and six rebounds.
Clare (21-1 overall, 14-0 JPC) continues its season tonight (Friday) against Big Rapids in the district championship. A win tonight puts them in the Carrollton regional on Tuesday, where fifth ranked Bullock Creek (20-1) or John Glenn (18-3) awaits.
Harrison wrapped up its regular season on Feb. 20 at Meridian, dropping the JPC game, 64-23.
Meridian led just 13-8 after the first quarter but used a big 25 point second to take a 38-15 lead at the half and pushed that lead to 47-29 entering the fourth.
Heber had six points to lead Harrison, Willman had five and LaChappa scored four.
Harrison finishes the season 0-19 overall and 0-14 in the JPC.