CLEAR LAKE — Whether he’s healthy or not, there’s no questioning Zach Lester’s talent on the basketball court.
The only question facing the Lions’ star senior coming into Friday’s contest vs. North Central Conference rival Humboldt was if he was going to be able to play or not. The reason: Lester was battling the flu.
So, on the road to recovery Friday and well enough to make the start, Lester was still unmatched as he poured in a game-high 37 points to lead the Lions to a 66-50 victory over the Wildcats.
“My teammates were what helped me be better,” Lester said after Friday’s game. “I had the flu (Thursday) so I missed practice and they kind of helped me through it all.”
Lester entered Friday’s game averaging 28.8 points per contest through five games. On this night, Humboldt had no answer.
Lester helped the Lions out to a 32-20 lead at the half as he scored 11 points over the first 16 minutes. It was the second half, and fourth quarter in particular, where Lester really shined.
He scored eight of the team’s 12 points in the third on 4-of-5 shooting, and then went off for 18 in the fourth as he was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field. He finished the evening 16 for 22.
“He’ll be the first one to tell you he didn’t shoot it well from outside tonight, but he’s really developed into a really nice player,” Clear Lake coach Jeremey Ainley said. “Some of the stuff he does doesn’t really amaze you anymore, but he’s put a lot of work into it.”
The Lions’ defense came to play in the first half as it built up its lead thanks to 13 Humboldt turnovers. Humboldt refused to fall too far behind, though.
In that fourth quarter, the Wildcats began chopping away at the Lions lead and got it down to seven points at one point. However, Lester was too good for the Lions as time after time he rose up in traffic or faded away to bury a key bucket for Clear Lake.
“He’s starting to get that sense of timing when we needed him,” Ainley said. “He saw that the other guys … we just weren’t hitting well tonight and he just sensed it and kind of took over a little bit. That’s what he’s grown up to.”
Alex Snelling added eight points for Clear Lake and Sean Wendel and Jared Penning scored five apiece.
Calvin Carlson paced the Wildcats with 16 points and Jamison Heinz added 13.
Clear Lake (4-2) travels to Mason City on Monday. The Lions hope the defense they brought Friday night will come along.
“It’s definitely going to help us in later games,” Lester said. “We play defense all the time in practice. That’s what our practices are meant to be for.”