CLARION – Over the last third of the season, defense was the name of the game for the Clear Lake girls basketball team.
The Lions assembled a solid seven-game winning streak—the last two of which came in Class 2A regional play – by limiting opponents to just 38 points per game.
In Saturday’s regional final, with a berth in the state tournament on the line, Clear Lake again turned to a stifling defense, and the offense caught up in the fourth quarter as the Lions pulled away over the final five minutes for a 47-32 win over North Polk.
“It was great how we figured out the offense in the middle of the third quarter,” Lions coach Bart Smith said. “I knew if we could just settle in on offense we would be alright.”
The defense carried the Lions in the first half as they limited the Comets to just 3-of-17 shooting and forced 13 turnovers over the first 16 minutes.
North Polk, though, was also an adept defensive team throughout the season, so the Clear Lake offense was not faring much better until Jordyn Barragy hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Lions a 14-9 lead at half.
The Comets then used their substantial size advantage early in the third quarter, and they ultimately knotted the score at 28 early in the fourth quarter.
From that point on, the Clear Lake freshmen took over.
The Lions had been consistently breaking North Polk’s full-court press all evening, but in the fourth quarter, Sara Faber, Clear Lake’s freshman forward, began to have tremendous success driving through the pressure directly to the rim.
Faber either scored a basket – she was 3-of-3 from the floor in the final quarter – or was fouled while driving and wound up at the free-throw line.
Faber put in 14 of the Lions 19 points over the final five minutes of play as Clear Lake went on a 19-4 run to close the game out.
“It is great when Sara is an aggressive scorer,” Smith said. “Sometimes with freshmen, you just have to let them do their thing.”
Julia Merfeld, another Clear Lake freshman, added three free throws as freshmen amounted for 17 of the 19 points that Clear Lake scored in the fourth quarter.
Faber was the only player in the game to reach double figures as she finished with 24 points.
Barragy added eight.
Jaedon Murphy had eight points to lead North Polk.
With the win, Clear Lake (21-3) advances to the state tournament for the third time in four years.
“It’s awesome,” Faber said. “But now it’s time to practice.”