A natural sprinter who made the Class 2 State Track Meet as a novice to the sport last year, Jayleign Flood was glad to be in a marathon and not a sprint Thursday.
Flood was flustered at both ends of the court for most of the first half during Clever’s trip to Hollister. But by the time the Lady Jays reached the finish line for their 65-49 victory, Flood had floored the Lady Tigers.
A defensive dynamo, Flood actually outscored high-scoring Hollister guard MacKenzie Simpson 8-6 in the second half. In contrast, Simpson had started by netting a trio of 3-pointers while scoring 11 points in the first half.
“At the beginning, it was kind of hard to adjust to her shooting from so far out,” Flood said. “I had to make that adjustment of playing further out on her, instead of playing on her like she was going to drive on me.”
With Simpson having played at Clever the past two seasons, the Lady Jays felt good about their game plan against her.
“You have to know your player and what she is going to do. I knew she was left-handed, so I kind of tried to keep her (to her) right if I could,” Flood said. “But she’s a hard player to guard.”
“Jayleign always plays pretty good defense against the (opponent’s) best player,” added Clever guard Riah Robnson. “It’s hard to read players like (Simpson) who can drive and shoot. She hustled and did a good job.”
More often than not, Flood has drawn the assignment of defending the opposition’s top scorer.
“I’ve told Jayleign, ‘If it’s a point guard, maybe Ireland (Jones) is going to guard her and if it’s a 5-player, Ruthie (Brown) is going to guard her, but 2-4, you’re going to be guarding her,’” coach Clark Satterly said. “So, almost every night she is guarding the other team’s best scorer.
“She’s a great athlete, so it’s a natural fit for her to be a defensive stopper,” he added. “I got after her a bit in the first half tonight and she did a really good job the rest of the game.”
Simpson’s 11 first-half points came in the first 11 minutes of the game. Hollister was up 17-12 three minutes into the second quarter. But the Lady Tigers were scoreless the rest of the first half.
Hollister’s scoring drought carried over to the first three-plus minutes of the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Clever went on a 13-0 run to take a 25-17 lead. The Lady Jays put up 47 points altogether in the second half.
“I told the girls to stay after it and keep being aggressive and the tide would turn,” Satterly said. “I felt like if we would stay after it, we’d make some breaks for ourselves.”
Robinson scored 19 of her game-high 26 points in second half. She went over the 500-point mark on the season and pulled to within 23 of the 1,500-point milestone for her career.
Clever made 10-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter
Flood also helped hold off Hollister (11-10) by making a pair of treys in the second half.
“I had to keep my head up after I had taken quite a few shots in the first half and didn’t make them,” Flood said. “You just have to keep shooting. Once you hit one, it carries throughout your game. It gives you a boost.”
“Coming into the season, I didn’t put much pressure on her offensively because we have Riah, Ruthie and Ireland,” Satterly said. “But she has been putting a lot of time in putting extra shots up and it’s paying off.”
The Lady Jays enjoyed getting reacquainted with Simpson. MacKenzie scored 354 points in her two seasons at Clever and her sister, Carly, scored 442. Carly is suspended and did not play Thursday.
“We got to talk to (MacKenzie) after the game and had a little laugh with her,” Flood said. “Throughout the game, we’d go, ‘Good job’ to each other. But we had to stay serious.”
Robinson and the Simpsons have been friends since they attended Mark Twain Elementary in Springfield together.
“I like playing against my friends. You always play harder against your friends,” Robinson said. “I was super excited coming into this game and we executed well. That made me even more happy.”
Clever (10-13) had another reason to celebrate. The Lady Jays received word of their No. 1 seed in Class 3 District 12. Diamond (17-6) is the second seed and Ash Grove (15-7) the third.
Clever has struggled mightily in close contests, but owns wins over both Diamond and Ash Grove.
CLEVER (65) — Jones 4 5-7 13, Robinson 7 9-12 26, Hicks 1 0-0 3, Flood 4 0-0 11, McClanahan 1 0-0 3, Brown 4 1-3 9.
HOLLISTER (49) — Frenzel 2 0-0 4, Simpson 7 0-0 17, J. Pyatt 7 0-0 16, M. Pyatt 2 4-6 9, Gere 1 0-0 2, Sutton 0 1-2 1.
Clever 11 7 21 26 - 65
Hollister 14 3 18 14 - 49
3-point goals - Robinson 3, Flood 3, Simpson 3, J. Pyatt 2, M. Pyatt, Hicks, McClanahn.