Lady Eagles come from behind to shock Clare

January 18, 2018

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer

Some wins are bigger than others. Friday’s 42-34 Jack Pine Conference home win over Clare was as big as they come for the Farwell girls basketball team. The victory ended a painfully long losing streak to the Lady Pioneers, one that is believed to have spanned over two decades.

“This was a big win for our community as no one really remembers the last time we beat Clare,” Farwell head coach Gordie Risbridger said. “It has been, to my knowledge over 20 years.”

Rio Risbridger with a layup.  photos by John Silvestro

Rio Risbridger with a layup. 
photos by John Silvestro

The Pioneers entered the game with hopes of staying one game back of league leading Gladwin, but they couldn’t capitalize on an early lead.

“Tough loss,” Clare head coach Kevin Richards said. “We had a good first quarter and played the rest of the game to not lose. We can’t play tentative. It hurt us on both ends of the court. We need to forget about this and move on.”

The history making night started off on the wrong foot for the Lady Eagles, as they saw themselves behind 11-2.

“We got off to a slow start, Jenna Odykirk made a lay-up on our first possession but we couldn’t make a basket again until the second quarter,” Risbridger said.

Kourtney John brings the ball down the court.

Kourtney John brings the ball down the court.

Farwell got and-one plays from Odykirk and Harley Crawford in the second quarter as the Eagles came to life, trailing just 17-16 at the half.

“Harley and Jenna had a couple of big baskets but our defense was key,” Risbridger said. “Clare did a nice job in beating our full-court press but we did well once we went into our three-quarter court press in the middle of the second quarter. Harley did a nice job limiting Clare’s scoring with some big blocks for us and Hunter Sponseller had a number of big steals.”

The Eagles added to their advantage in the third quarter, leading 28-20 until the Pioneers netted a basket just before the period buzzer to pull within 28-22 entering the fourth quarter.

The Pioneers opened the fourth on a 12-6 run to tie the game up at 34-all but Farwell sank the final eight points of the game for the historic win.

“Clare did a nice job of battling back in the fourth quarter,” Risbridger said. “Rio Risbridger hit a couple of floaters going to the basket and Grace Saupe hit a big free throw to put the game out of reach.”

Odykirk finished with 14 points and three rebounds for the winning Eagles, Sponseller added nine points, five steals and four rebounds, Saupe had seven points, nine rebounds and four assists, Risbridger had six points, Crawford had five points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Kourtney John had one point.

“Jenna and Harley played big for us offensively and defensively,” Risbridger said. “Grace and Aliyeh Wyatt played solid games as they always do and Katheron White and Kourtney John subbed in and did an excellent job for us.”

For the Pioneers, Ellie Johnson had 17 points and two rebounds, Natalee Kunse and Cami Miller had five points apiece, with Kunse adding nine rebounds and Miller getting 12. Lainey Veenkant had four points and three assists.

The Eagles played a non-conference game at Merrill on Tuesday, a contest they also won, 39-25.

Farwell’s Hunter Sponseller knocks down a jumper during last week’s big win over Clare.

Farwell’s Hunter Sponseller knocks down a jumper during last week’s big win over Clare.

The Eagles started strong with a 13-3 lead after the first quarter though that lead shrunk to 21-15 by the half.

Farwell pushed the gap back to double figures by the end of three however, 33-17.

“We got off to a hot start,” Risbridger said. “Merrill sat in their 2-3 zone most of the night whih was good for us to work against. We did a nice job of keeping up the defensive pressure. They tried their press in the third and we did a nice job scoring some easy transition baskets. A good win for us.”

Pacing the victors was Odykirk with 10 points, Saupe had six points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists, Sponseller had six points, nine steals and three boards, White had five points, Wyatt added three points and six boards, Risbridger had three points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals, Crawford and John had two points apiece and Lillian Albaugh had one point.

Farwell also won a JPC game at home against Roscommon on Jan. 10, 55-24.

“We played very well with our pressure and led 9-2 after the first,” Risbridger said. “We struggled to make shots in the first half but the girls continued to play their game and the shots started to fall.”

Sponseller led the way with 19 points, Risbridger had nine and Odykirk netted seven.

Farwell (9-2 overall, 5-2 JPC) hosted Gladwin (7-0 JPC) on Thursday and stays at home against Harrison next Thursday.

The Lady Pioneers were winners in their other game last week, as they topped visiting Beaverton 50-41 in a JPC battle.

“We played much better offensively,” Richards said. “A lot of people contributed in this game. Our entire team has had a great week of practice and we felt good going into the game. We finally had some shots fall and we executed well defensively.”

Kunse ripped the nets, sinking four-of-six from behind the long line and finished with 21 points total. Peyton Hubel had 10 points and five rebounds, Johnson had nine points, five rebounds and three steals, Miller had five points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal and Olivia Haring had five points.

Clare (6-3, 5-2) was at Houghton Lake on Thursday, hosts Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart on Tuesday and heads to Meridian on Thursday.

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