CLEAR LAKE | The fifth-rated (3A) Clear Lake girls basketball team has made a habit of deep tournament runs in regional play resulting in state tournament appearances in three of the past four seasons.
However, with the Lions trailing 22-11 to Garner-Hayfield-Ventura in their opening postseason game, Clear Lake coach called a sorely-needed timeout.
“I told them to not panic,” Smith said. “We couldn’t get it all back in one play.”
Whatever Smith said, it had a profound impact as the Lions went on a 10-0 run to close the first half and dominated the second half in a 64-38 win.
The Cardinals took early advantage of a Clear Lake that seemed uncharacteristically nervous at both ends of the court,
Julia Merfeld connected on her second 3-pointer of the first half to spark a Lions’ run that took them into the locker room trailing by just one point.
While Clear Lake quickly took the lead in the third quarter, a gritty GHV team was able to hang around until a 12-0 Lions run put the lead into double digits.
Sara Faber, the Lions’ leading scorer on the season at 16.5 points per game, then went off in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals ran out of steam.
Faber scored 16 of her game-high 32 points in a fourth quarter that saw the Lions outscore the Cardinals 23-6.
Merfeld, a sophomore guard who averages three points per game, finished with 13 to provide a huge lift to the Clear Lake offense.
Jade Hanson paced GHV with 10 points.
Jayden Frank added eight, all in the first half.
“(Matt) Erpelding has a good, young nucleus,” Smith said of GHV. “But the press does wear you down.”
Clear Lake (20-2) advances to host Iowa Falls-Alden in regional semifinal play on Wednesday.
The Lions downed the Cadets twice in conference play during the regular season with a 63-46 victory on Dec. 19 and a 41-35 win in Clear Lake on Jan. 30.