“I’m certainly glad we’ve got that monkey off our back,” Clinton Community College basketball coach Joe Shovlain said following the Cougars’ 55-53 victory over Southwestern Community College of Creston on Saturday afternoon in W.J. Yourd Gymnasium.
That ‘monkey’ was the fact that Clinton had not won an Iowa Community College Athletic Conference game for five years. Shovlain’s Cougars ended that run beating Southwestern to close out regular-season play with a 6-21 record and a 1-13 conference mark. The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak and extended a Spartans’ losing string to six. Southwestern fell to 10-20, 2-12 in conference action.
A field goal by Marquealis Edwards of Southwestern and another by the Spartans’ Devin Kastrup in the first minute of the game gave the visitors a 4-0 lead. That was the biggest margin by either team during first-half play. Shovlain’s squad matched that edge at 14-10 when field goals by Ryan Frazer and Dane Barun with just under 13 minutes to play in the opening period snapped a 10-10 deadlock. The first half ended with the Cougars in front by two points, 26-24.
“We have been so close so many times,” Shovlain said. “Perhaps we had some heavenly help.”
That comment came regarding the death last week of his wife’s (Lynn) mother, Ginger Merdian. Shovlain explained that his son, assistant coach Steve Shovlain, was very close to his grandmother and that the week was very tough on Steve.
“Our goal was to hold them under 55 points and we did,” Joe Shovlain said. “Our game goal was 60-55.”
Steve Shovlain said: “We worked very hard all week on defense and wanted to shut them down. Rico (Phillips, the sophomore guard who injured an ankle Feb. 22 against Kirkwood) has been rehabbing, did a good job and is showing good leadership.
“Also playing well was (6-2 sophomore guard Demitri) Conwell. He is very talented when fully focused the entire game. Sometimes its hard (staying focused), but when he is on ... .
“This is our first conference win in a very long time and a great one for the program. This is a stepping stone, one we needed and we got it.”
DeVaughn Cole-Rodney pushed the Cougars in front 28-24 to start second-half scoring. Conwell arched in a 3-point field goal for a seven-point margin, 31-24. With 9:30 remaining to play, Clinton boasted an 11-point lead, 43-32.
Some in the crowd of under 100 started to relax after watching Richard Hurt stuff back a rebound, Brown add a short jumper and Phillips make good on a shot from the side. Cole-Rodney and Conwell both made three-point plays the old-fashioned way — making two-point field goals and adding a free throw after being fouled on the play.
The Cougars came close to blowing that 11-point lead.
In less than two minutes the Spartans had cut the lead to three after putting in eight unanswered points to trail 43-40. Marcus Littleton, a 6-0 freshman from Norwalk, hit from beyond the 3-point line to slice the lead to 48-47.
Two minutes remained when Kastrup made a pair of charity shots to tie the game at 51, as the losers outscored the hosts 19-8 in a 7 1⁄2-minute stretch.
Conwell regained the lead for Shovlain’s charges at 53-51 with a baseline drive attempt with 1:35 left on the clock. Twenty seconds later a jump ball was called with the possession arrow favoring the Cougars, Phillips made the first of two free throw attempts after being fouled by Delby Halcomb for a 54-51 gap favoring Clinton. Keenan Joiner, who scored nine points for the Spartans, again made it a one-point affair (54-53), hitting the net with 22.3 seconds still to play.
The Cougars brought the ball into play with Southwestern’s Littleton fouling Conwell. He made the first of two free-throw attempts and Clinton led 55-53.
After neither team scored on its next possession, the Spartans brought the ball downcourt and missed a 3-point attempt that would have won the game at the buzzer.
CLINTON CC 55, SOUTHWESTERN CC 53
CLINTON (6-21, 1-13) — Richard Hurt 3 0-0 7, Demitri Conwell 3 5-7 12, Virshaun Grant 2 0-0 4, Dane Barun 1 0-0 2, DeVaughn Cole-Rodney 2 5-7 9, Ryan Frazer 3 1-2 7, Antoine Brown 3 0-0 7, Rico Phillips 2 3-6 7. Totals 19 14-25 55.
SOUTHWESTERN CC — Marquealis Edwards 4 4-10 12, Delby Holcomb 3 0-1 7, Keenan Joiner 4 1-3 9, Devin Kastrup 3 3-4 9, Kyle Graves 1 0-0 2, Trevor Kayser 2 2-4 6, Marcus Littleton 3 0-2 8, Brett England 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-24 53.
Halftime — Clinton 26, Southwestern 24. 3-point goals — Clinton 3 (Hurt, Brown, Conwell), Southwestern 3 (Holcomb, Littleton 2). Total fouls — Clinton 21, Southwestern 19. Fouled out — Kastrup.