Sometimes a little change can make all the difference, especially in a season-opener.
Clinton started the second half on a 6-2 run to pull within three points of Dubuque Hempstead on Monday night in the first girls basketball game of the season for both teams. With the momentum changing and its lead slipping away, Hempstead made a change.
“I think we were able to make a little change on our defense,” Hempstead coach Everette Locklear said. “We went zone, and that forced them to take some outside shots. We kind of covered up the middle. They were able to get it inside on us. Once we were able to collapse in and force outside shots, then we could get out and run. Then on offense, we were able to get the ball inside.”
Clinton coach Mike Halac, in his River Queens coaching debut, said: “We didn’t adjust to the zone well enough. I take the blame on myself. We haven’t worked against it enough in practice. It’s something we need to work on as a coaching staff and a program more.”
Hempstead’s Brittani Graves hit a 3-pointer to start a 23-1 Mustangs run over the next 10 minutes, 25 seconds of game play. After that, Hempstead closed out a 60-36 win.
“I’m very happy with a lot of things,” Halac said. “We’re not where we want to be yet, though. The girls know that and the coaching staff knows that. This isn’t good enough. This isn’t what River Queen basketball is going to be.”
Other than that stretch of 10:25, Hempstead outscored Clinton 37-35 in the other 27:35 of play.
The River Queens (0-1) played a lot of the game without star 6-foot, 4-inch senior Larissa Brewer, who was plagued with foul trouble. But when she was on the court, she made her presence felt. She scored six of her eight points in the 1:54 stretch to start the second half when Clinton cut the Mustangs lead to three.
“When Larissa is on the court, she’s one of the most dominant players in the MAC, no question,” Halac said. “She’s a great defensive player, as well. I don’t think she gets enough credit for that. She picked up a few quick fouls tonight and she became very timid on defense. A timid defender is a defender who picks up lots of fouls. That’s kind of what happened tonight. She was scared to pick up another one because she didn’t want to hurt the team. When you get scared to make mistakes, that’s when you make them. She’s a phenomenal player. She’s going to have a huge season for us, and she’s one of the reasons we’re going to be successful.”
Brewer picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter and went to the bench. She returned early in the fourth quarter but fouled out with almost seven minutes left in the game.
“As a staff we talked about it — it was 11 points — and we felt that we needed to get her back in there to have a shot to chip away a little bit more,” Halac said. “When she’s in the game, she’s just a difference maker.”
With Brewer saddled with foul trouble, a lot of the offensive responsibility fell on senior Paige Barsema and she responded — by getting to the free-throw line. Barsema scored a team-high 17 points, shooting 13 of 16 on foul shots. She scored 12 of Clinton’s 22 first-half points, with nine coming in the second quarter, all from the free-throw line.
“Paige played a great first half for us, attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line a lot,” Halac said.
While Barsema was propelling the River Queens offense, 6-2 sophomore Haley Van Cleave was doing the same for Hempstead. Van Cleave scored a game-high 22 points. She scored 15 of her team’s 29 first-half points, before other Mustangs picked up the scoring in the second half.
“We pretty much try to run our offense through Van Cleave,” Locklear said. “I just thought she did a good job moving without the basketball. I thought that was the biggest thing. She was moving well off picks and cutting hard to the basket. Obviously, she had to finish.”
Hempstead’s full-court press gave the River Queens some trouble, especially in the first quarter. Clinton turned the ball over on 10 of it’s 16 first-quarter possessions. The River Queens finished the game with 29 turnovers.
“I thought our effort was really good,” Locklear said. “We had a lot of rust as far as execution is concerned. We’ve really got to fine-tune our execution in the halfcourt set. I thought in the fastbreak situation we did a good job. We pressed them early and forced some turnovers.”
While Halac was disappointed with the outcome, he said there was plenty to be happy with in the season’s first outing. Plus, he knew there would be challenges installing a new system that is more aggressive and up-tempo than what the River Queens ran previously.
The girls showed a new level and they really worked hard,” Halac said. “We’re not where we need to be yet. But we’re learning a new system. ... I’m very proud of the effort they’re putting in and how hard they’re working to pick it up.
“We see a lot of success coming, We have a bright future. We think we have a great core of seniors, followed up by a great core of juniors and sophomores. We’re comfortable with where we are. Obviously this isn’t what we wanted, but it’s a building process.”
DUBUQUE HEMPSTEAD 60, CLINTON 36
HEMPSTEAD (1-0) — Stephanie Tauke 1-2 1-2 3, Kaitlin Lattner 0-1 1-2 1, Haley Van Cleave 6-10 10-13 22, Megan Doty 2-5 0-0 5, Hailey Koerperich 0-1 1-4 1, Stephanie Cox 0-5 0-0 0, Ashley Dolan 3-5 4-7 10, Paige Yager 1-1 1-4 3, Abbey Ahlrichs 0-0 1-2 1, Jessica Brown 0-2 1-2 1, Brittani Graves 2-6 4-5 9, Hope Koerperich 2-4 0-2 4. Totals 17-44 24-43 60.
CLINTON (1-0) — Shannon Shovlain 0-0 0-0 0, Erin Wenzel 0-1 0-0 0, Karly Schneeberger 0-3 3-4 3, Alexis Dickinson 0-0 0-0 0, Rubina Vidal 0-0 0-2 0, Jordan Nelson 0-2 0-4 0, Mallory Horner 1-3 0-0 2, Paige Barsema 2-5 13-16 17, Brittany Ackerman 0-0 0-0 0, Keirstyn Davis 2-3 0-0 4, Katie Schimerowski 0-1 0-0 0, Julie Rutenbeck 0-4 0-0 0, Larissa Brewer 4-6 0-0 8, Libby Mumm 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 10-29 16-28 36.
Hempstead 13 16 11 20 — 60
Clinton 7 15 7 7 — 36
3-point goals — Hempstead 2-11 (Graves 1-1, Doty 1-3, Tauke 0-1, Van Cleave 0-1, Dolan 0-1, Ha. Koerperich 0-1, Cox 0-3); Clinton 0-2 (Nelson 0-1, Horner 0-1). Total fouls — Hempstead 26; Clinton 30. Fouled out — Brewer, Horner. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Hempstead 40 (Graves 8, Van Cleave 5); Clinton 37 (Barsema 5, Rutenbeck 5). Steals — Hempstead 13 (Graves 3); Clinton 3 (Barsema 2). Blocks — Hempstead 2 (Graves, Ho. Koerperich); Clinton 1 (Brewer). Turnovers — Hempstead 14; Clinton 29.