DIAMOND — Perhaps befitting of a team with a losing record winning a District championship, Clever took a bit of an unusual route to victory Saturday.
Shooting guard Riah Robinson worked as a high-post while scoring 21 points in the Lady Jays’ 65-50 triumph over Ash Grove in the Class 3 District 12 final.
As a counter to the Lady Pirates’ 2-3 zone defense, Clever coach Clark Satterlee shifted Robinson from the perimeter to the top of the paint. He’s not the first coach to have a guard at the high-post, but the great majority of his peers will position a forward or center at that spot.
Going a bit against the norm proved genius. Robinson received all the touches she could have asked for while directing the Lady Jays’ offense as somewhat of a second point guard.
“We typically do that against a 2-3” Robinson said. “I'm usually one of the first looks, if it's there. If it's not, we don't force it in. I like it because I like to drive and get free throws.”
“I felt like having Riah at the high-post, it would attack their defense well,” Satterlee said. “With (Ash Grove center Chloe Moad) in the middle of their 2-3, she would have to decide if was going to come out and guard Riah. Riah makes plays and gets buckets. She can put put it on the floor or she can stay there and is deadly with that shot.
“If they did come out and guard Riah, you have Ruthie (Brown) cutting in from the short corner,” he added. “That was a favorable matchup for us, too.”
Once Clever’s offense got to clicking, the Lady Jays rolled.
Robinson shook off a scoreless first quarter and a 14-9 Ash Grove lead. She put up 10 points in the second quarter, part of a 24-point stanza for Clever.
Ireland Jones added 17 point and Brown netted 16. The Lady Jays never relinquished the lead in the second half.
“I like Riah at the high post because she's good at making the reads to either score or if I'm going to be there for the dive,” Brown said. “Decision-making is a key there. She has the IQ to know if the score is there for her. That's the advantage of having her there rather than filling in one of our posts there.”
“You've got to play where your skill level is and Riah and Ruthie are two of our most skilled scorers,” Satterlee said. “I tried to get the ball where they could make plays. Anytime we’ve had somebody play a 2-3 against us, we’ve put Riah in the middle and try to get her the ball. She can score, she can drive or she can kick it back out if it's not there. She plays like a point guard at the high post.
“We would try to get her the ball and let her make a play,” he added. “There were no X's and O's, just get a spot to where you can catch it and turn and face and read the defense.”
Clever’s defense flustered Ash Grove will full-court pressure. At the top of the press was the 5-foot-10 Brown. She towered over the Lady Pirates’ overwhelmed ball-handlers.
“I like to press, especially when I'm at the front,” Brown said. “I'm usually in the back trying to defend the basket. When I’m at the front of the press, I like it because I feel like I'm more in the action. He puts me there because I'm so long. I can block (guards’) sight. That's the benefit of putting me up there.”
“I love our press,” Robinson said. “We haven't used it as much as I feel like we should have. When we have used it, it's worked out well.”
Clever contained Moad, a Missouri State commit, until the game was practically decided. She had only three points midway through the third quarter. She had a dozen in the fourth quarter to finish with 19.
“I didn't know until I looked up (at the scoreboard) in the third quarter and saw she only had three points,” Robinson said. “I was pretty surprised by that. That was a good thing.”
Those around Clever’s program are reporting this is the Lady Jays’ first District title since 1992.
Satterlee has obviously made a smooth transition from coaching boys as an assistant at Clever for 19 years to coaching girls for the first time this season.
“That's something I was worried about and he asked me and Riah about coaching girls,” Brown said. “I told him it's very different from coaching boys. I think he's definitely a good job adjusting, better than most coaches probably would. I've been happy with him and think he's going to be good for the program.
“I’ve been impressed with his coaching and decisions,” she added. “Listening to him talk, you can tell he knows the game well. I don't think he has said anything I disagree with. That can be hard to find because a lot of people have a lot of disagreements with their coach, especially at the high school level.”
Clever (13-14) advances to meet Strafford (22-5) in a Sectional at Willard on Wednesday.
ASH GROVE (50) — Lutz 2 1-3 5, McClelland 2 2-2 6, Torbert 2 1-4 5, Gilliland 5 1-2 11, Moad 8 2-5 19 Wheeler 1 0-0 2, Pratt 1 0-0 2.
CLEVER (65) — Stidham 2 1-2 5, Jones 7 1-2 17, Robinson 7 4-5 21, Hicks 2 0-2 6, Brown 5 5-7 16, McClanahan 0 0-2 0.
Ash Grove 14 7 11 18 - 50
Clever 9 24 18 14 - 65
3-point goals - Robinson 3, Hicks 2, Jones 2, Brown, Moad.