DAVENPORT — The final eight minutes of Tuesday night’s contest against Davenport North went about as well as the Clinton River Queens could have hoped.
But just like it was a week ago in a loss to Bettendorf, the start of the game was a different story — and the result was both a familiar and painful one for Clinton.
This time, the Wildcats ripped off 20 consecutive points to turn a two-point Clinton lead into a runaway, and by the time the River Queens recovered, it was far too late and the hole was too deep to escape. Despite scoring 26 of the game’s final 29 points, Clinton never came close to a comeback and ultimately became the Wildcats’ first MAC victim since 2011, dropping a 73-56 decision on Tuesday night at Davenport North High School.
“The sloppy second quarter got us,” Clinton coach Mike Halac said. “It hurt us from the start that we didn’t come out with the energy we wanted. I’m really disappointed because this was a game where we wanted to come in and do some nice things, but it didn’t happen for us tonight.”
A large reason was because the Wildcats (2-4, 1-2 MAC) knew the River Queens’ biggest weakness and made sure to exploit it at every possibility. Clinton (1-6, 0-3) was playing its second game without primary ballhandler Jordan Nelson after her injury a week ago against Bettendorf, and North coach Ron O’Brien elected to use his team’s speed to harass the River Queens’ less-experienced ball-handlers and hope to force mistakes.
“We knew their strength is their inside game,” O’Brien said. “We wanted to take advantage of that, put pressure on the ball and create some opportunities.”
The Wildcats’ strategy worked to perfection. Instead of Erin Wenzel and McKenzie Petersen getting the ball in the low post, where they could be most effective, their first touch often came near the top of the key, leading to several turnovers that became easy North baskets.
Petersen and Wenzel finished with 19 and 18 points, respectively, but that meant little in the face of their team’s mistakes. Clinton finished with 22 turnovers, 16 of those coming in the first half as North built its huge lead.
“Jordan does so much for us, and she’s not out there,” Halac said. “Emma (Gettes) handled the ball for us, too, so having neither of them makes it tough. But we make no excuses. We have to come out and do our job, and we have to come out and play with who we can suit up. You can’t have that many turnovers and win the game.”
The one bright spot from Halac’s perspective was that once again, the River Queens kept fighting until the end. Clinton outscored North 23-2 in the final quarter, turning a 38-point North cushion into a much more respectable 17 before the clock hit zero.
Much of that was a result of sophomore guard Hannah Burken playing a more relaxed final quarter and taking charge of the offense. She scored all nine of her points in the final quarter, showing an aggressiveness that Halac wants to see more of from both her and the rest of the River Queens going forward.
“We need four quarters, and that’s on me, too,” Halac said. “I told the girls we need to buy back into what we believe with this program, and being low on numbers, we’ve shied away from it. But we need to go back to what we do well.”
DAVENPORT NORTH 73, CLINTON 56
CLINTON — Erin Wenzel 6 6-10 18, Elle Tubbs 3 2-5 8, McKenzie Petersen 8 3-5 19, McKenna Greenwalt 1 0-0 2, Hannah Burken 4 1-2 9. Totals 22 12-22 56.
NORTH — Jacionna Stowers 10 0-0 22, Tamika Tucker 4 1-2 9, Mikaela Hingtgen 4 3-5 13, Jinaya Houston 4 2-3 10, Kaylee Taylor 1 0-0 2, McKenzie O’Brien 2 0-0 5, Taylor Powell 2 2-4 6, Natalia Kirby 1 0-0 2, Shelby Carlson 1 0-0 2. Totals 29 10-19 73.
Clinton 10 11 12 23 — 56
Davenport North 18 27 26 2 — 73
3-point goals — Davenport North 5 (Stowers 2, Hingtgen 2, O’Brien).