CLEAR LAKE | Every team in the North Central Conference knows that Zach Lester is the Clear Lake boys’ basketball team’s go-to guy in the fourth quarter.
The catch is that, even with that knowledge, nobody has really figured out anything to do about it.
On Friday, Lester scored the Lions’ first 19 points of the fourth quarter to boost the league-leading Lions to a 72-67 win over Clarion-Goldfield-Dows.
The two teams were tied at 50 entering the final eight minutes.
“It’s our defense that steps up,” Lester said. “That’s what makes the scoring easier.”
The Cowboys have given Clear Lake fits over the last few seasons, and Friday was no exception.
C-G-D shot nearly 50 percent from the floor in the first half and took a 35-32 lead into the locker room at intermission.
A 6-0 run by the Lions in the third quarter helped Clear Lake hang around before a late Lester basket tied the score at 50 entering the final quarter.
From that point on, it was vintage Lester.
Lester was 8-for-11 from the floor and 5-of-6 from the line over the final stanza for 21 of his 43 points down the stretch.
Just as important were three big steals by Lester during the final minute.
Jared Penning also came up big for Clear Lake.
The 6-foot-7 post player scored 10 points and hauled in eight rebounds while adding solid interior defense against the Cowboys.
Tate Storbeck also had 10 points for Clear Lake.
Rhett Darland led the Cowboys with 22.
“This was a great team effort,” Lions coach Jeremey Ainley said. “When we needed a steal, we got it. When we needed a basket, we got.”
With the win, the Lions moved to 10-4 on the season, but more importantly, Clear Lake remained atop the conference standings with an 8-1 mark.
The Lions begin an important stretch on Tuesday when they will travel to Algona for the start of run of four road games in five outings.
The Bulldogs upended Clear Lake 49-47 earlier in the season.
“We’ve got a lead,” Ainley said. “Now do we go out and focus and stay in the lead?”