Icing on the cake: Clinton girls regain share of first
CLINTON--Clinton’s girls basketball team delivered its head coach one of his favorite birthday presents ever Tuesday night.
The Cougars hope the celebration continues into next week.
They played a nearly flawless second half, rebounding from a nine-point deficit to deliver a 77-61 Rock Valley South Conference home victory over Walworth Big Foot.
Clinton won the rematch after Big Foot won in double-overtime just eight days earlier. The two teams are now tied atop the South standings at 10-4 with two games remaining.
“I think this just shows how close we are and how well we work together,” said Clinton senior Kelly Loudon, who led the Cougars with 19 points and eight rebounds. “All season we’ve kind of had the problem where we only come out in the second half. In this game, we showed up to play both halves.
“After that game we lost in double-overtime, that was really hard. We were out for revenge.”
A back-and-forth first half ended with Big Foot leading 34-29. And the Chiefs stretched their lead to nine, 42-33, when Reagan Courier made a pair of free throws with 14:47 remaining. Courier led all scorers with 23 points, including 14 in the first half.
Clinton took over from there, going on an 18-0 run in a matter of nine possessions.
The Cougars scored on eight of those offensive trips, including 3-pointers by Loudon, freshman Liz Kalk and junior Payton Severson—who finished with three of Clinton’s seven triples.
“They got the lead to nine, and I was thinking, oh no,” said Clinton coach Michael Powers, whose birthday was Tuesday. “But then it was just there. Payton Severson, her 3s with confidence just started opening up the floodgates. And once we got her going … it was just pure basketball instincts. This was a nice win, but a great exclamation point just to execute like that.”
The offensive success seemed to feed into defensive confidence. Clinton shifted away from its steady diet of in-your-face man principles to a zone scheme that frustrated the Chiefs.
They turned the ball over 20 times total, including six during the defining 18-0 run.
“We just didn’t finish as a team, and that’s not like us,” Big Foot coach Rick Schoenbeck said. “We didn’t play hard, and that’s what bothers me.
“They see a zone and they just get tight.”
Clinton stretched its lead to double digits when Severson hit another 3 with less than 10 minutes left, and the Cougars never let up. They led by as many as 19 points in the final minutes, as the outside game opened the inside up for Loudon and Kalli Kuhlow, who scored 26 of their 35 points after halftime.
Clinton made 19 of 26 shots from the field in the second half. Kuhlow finished with 16 points, while Hannah Kalk had 12 and Severson finished with 11.
“It was so much fun; that’s the reason we play is for stuff like that,” said Loudon, who fought through the flu and a sprained wrist. “It’s such a good feeling.”
Nothing would feel better for the Cougars than to end a 13-year drought. Clinton won five conference titles from 2000-04 but hasn’t won one since. It hosts third-place Brodhead on Friday before closing at fourth-place Beloit Turner on Feb. 16.
Big Foot faces Parkview and Palmyra-Eagle—two teams with four combined league wins—in its final two games.
“The road gets hard, because we’ve got to play two teams that if we don’t play well, they’re good teams with great coaches,” Powers said. “So, we told them to celebrate this for 24 hours, and then it’s right back to work.”
CLINTON 77, BIG FOOT 61
Big Foot (61)—Briggs 4-3-11, Wellhausen 1-0-2, Gonzalez 3-0-6, Demco 2-2-6, R. Courier 9-2-23, P. Courier 6-0-13. Totals: 25-7-61.
Clinton (77)—L. Kalk 2-0-6, H. Kalk 5-1-12, Spears 3-2-8, Bell 2-1-5, Severson 4-0-11, Loudon 8-2-19, Kuhlow 7-2-16. Totals: 31-8-77.
Big Foot 34 27—61
Clinton 29 48—77
Three-point goals—BF 4 (R. Courier 3, P. Courier), C 7 (Severson 3, L. Kalk 2, Loudon, H. Kalk). Free throws missed—BF 4, C 10. Total fouls—BF 19, C 15. Fouled out—Wellhausen.