STRAFFORD — Spotting Strafford a 19-point lead, Clever closed to within five of the Lady Indians, before bowing 65-55 in a Mid-Lakes Conference matchup Monday.
The Lady Jays scored 37 points in the second half, or more than twice their total of the first half, without the benefit of a single free throw.
Little wonder Clever guard Ireland Jones was wanting to replay the first half.
“I wish we could rewind,” Jones said.
The numbers tell the tale of the Lady Jays’ completely contrasting halves.
Clever missed all seven of its 3-point attempts in the first half, while Jones was 1-of-8 from the field and the Lady Jays committed eight turnovers.
Strafford was up 31-20 at the half, despite 2-of-17 3-point shooting in the first half.
The Lady Indians upped their advantage to 39-20 at the start of the second half.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Clever made five straight 3-point goals and 7-of-8 3s during a torrid stretch. Jones scored 11 of her 18 points in the third quarter and finished the night by making six of her last 10 shots. Bailie McClanahan had all 11 of her points in second half.
McClanahan finished with a trio of 3, while Jones and MacKenzie Camp both had a pair of treys.
“Ireland was kicking it out, me and Bailie got hot and Ella (Newman) was getting the ball down the court,” Camp said. “It all clicked in our heads and we all started playing our roles.”
“In the second half, I feel we were more assertive with the ball,” Jones said. “I was going to the lane and kicking it out to Bailie and Kenzie to hit shots and they went on a hot streak. When (the defense) didn't collapse on me, I went to the goal.”
A 16-2 Clever run made it 41-36. The Lady Jays were within six, 61-55, with 1:55 to play. But that’s as close as it got.
“Versus a team like Strafford, you have to be assertive,” Jones said. “They’ve won and won and I don't think Clever has ever beaten Strafford. We really wanted it, we just didn't play like we wanted to until late.”
Camp’s 15-point effort as a sixth man was encouraging for the Lady Jays.
“I've taken it upon myself that I need to (fill) a scoring role,” Camp said. “I need to go in and make something happen.”
Rebounding has haunted Clever all season and was a problem again. Strafford repeatedly scored on second-chance points.
“That smoked us,” coach Clark Satterlee said. “It’s disappointing because we've worked on that and made that a big key. We'll spend some more time taking care of it.”
Satterlee told his players he was proud of their comeback. But he was disappointed in their start.
“I've wanted one of these big Mid-Lakes Conference wins,” Satterlee said. “We’ve got to get to a point where moral victories aren't good enough for us. Anybody who has watched us play, I think, would say we're a good team. But the Strafford, Fair Grove and Skyline level, that's where we're trying to get. In the second half, we showed that. We've got to believe it from the get-go.
“Early in the season, we had to convince the girls that we are good, that we can hang with the big dogs,” he added. “Strafford, Skyline and Fair Grove have ruled the Mid-Lakes for so long. It's not something you can fix overnight. We're starting to understand we can play with them.”
“I don't think we know our own potential, yet, and how great we can be,” Camp said.
Looking ahead, the Lady Jays (13-9 overall and 0-3 in the Mid-Lakes) hope they get another shot at Strafford or Fair Grove. Clever will be in Class 3 District 12 at Lamar, while Strafford and Fair Grove will be in Class 3 District 11 at Sparta.
“Hopefully, after we win a District championship and move on to Sectionals, we meet Strafford, Fair Grove or Sparta,” Jones said. “We will be ready to play.”