There’s a collection of numbers that have been driving the Clear Lake girls basketball team this season: 2-27 1-0.
They’ve talked about it all season, put those numbers up on the scoreboard at times during practice, and have used it as a kind of slogan for what they’re after. But what does it mean?
“Our saying has been 2-27 1-0, meaning Feb. 27, we’ll be 1-0,” Clear Lake senior Gretchen Jones said. “We’ve made it down to The Well three times in the last four years and have lost the first-round game every year … and it just really motivates us. We want this win, and we’re practicing really hard this week.”
At 3:15 p.m. Tuesday inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, the Lions will be back at the Class 3A girls state tournament, and they’re on a mission. Their previous two visits have resulted in Day 1 exits.
They’ve been talking about this day since the season started, and now is the time to get what they feel is theirs.
“It’s been our minds since the start, and since Coach (Bart) Smith talked about it, it’s been a huge goal of ours and it would mean a lot to everyone here,” Clear Lake senior Jordyn Barragy.
There’s a different feeling surrounding the Lions this time.
Their past two trips have paired them with Pocahontas Area and the state’s all-time leading scorer Elle Ruffridge. Each time the Lions went in underdogs, and each time they came up short.
The different feeling they’re getting this time is they don’t have to change everything about their team in order to slow down their opponent. Senior Chloe Mueller, Barragy and Jones know a thing or two about what the Lions have gone through. Each played for the past three state-qualifying teams.
“It’s kind of nice this year instead of last year where we literally had to change everything, and it’s nice that we can have that experience,” Barragy said. “Us three seniors, we’ve had a lot of experience on the floor – we’ve been playing since we were sophomores, and it’s nice to have that experience overall.”
That time on the court gives them an edge this year.
“I think it gives us a little more confidence and makes us feel a little bit more comfortable down there,” Smith said. “The team that can be more comfortable down in that arena usually makes a difference.”
The task this time for the third-seeded Lions (22-2) is to figure out a way to get that elusive win, and it’ll come against sixth-seeded Monticello (19-5).
Monticello has used its size this season to help guide it to state, and also has leaned on the play of Lauren Ries and Taylor McDonald, who have combined for more than 30 points per game.
Slowing down the Panthers’ transition game is also a focus for the Lions.
“When we’re clicking, we’re really good and fun to watch,” Jones said. “I think the biggest thing is we’re going to need to communicate a lot. They’re tall, and our defense is going to be huge on the post.”
But, finally, they’re also concerned about themselves.
“We just hope to go into the game and not be nervous at all because it’s a huge court, a huge atmosphere to take in, even as the two freshmen we have playing with us, and we just hope we can soak it in and play the way we want to play down there,” Barragy said.