CLINTON — Falling behind 11-4 in the first quarter, the River Queens managed to hold off Central DeWitt's attack in the second, trailing 18-12 at halftime. Then, Amanda Brainerd awoke, and in the words of Clinton coach Mike Halac, "took over the game."
"Brainerd did a great job for them," he added, following the 47-26 loss in the opening round of the River Queen Classic. "We were trying to take away the middle on her and her teammates just did a nice job creating space."
Brainerd finished with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting. She was the only Saber in double figures, nearly matching Clinton in scoring.
Erin Wenzel led the Queens with 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Clinton contained Brainerd to only 5 first-half points. Out of the break, it seemed every DeWitt possession featured an open look from its sophomore star.
"Second half was much better than the first," DeWitt coach Mark Kurtz said. "In the first we got in much of a hurry. ... We hurt ourselves by just rushing things.
"I thought we did a better job of finding (Brainerd) in the second half. It's as much Amanda's teammates as it was Amanda."
Brainerd immediately caught fire finishing a layup through contact and converting the freebie to start the third. Time and again she took Clinton back door to find easy buckets in the lane, often drawing the Queens into fouls. Kurtz said Brainerd was unusually cold from the stripe in the first half; in the second, though, she converted 7-of-10, including back-to-back possessions where she was 4-for-4.
"I was fed pretty well by my teammates and I was just getting good looks," Brainerd said. "I can score from wherever, but it's mostly about me getting the open look and getting my teammates to see me and hitting what's open."
Thus, a game that was within reach for Clinton quickly got out of hand. The River Queens didn't help themselves out either, shooting a lowly 13 percent on the night and missing 19 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc.
"It was a close ball game until the last five minutes," Halac said. "But we shot 8-of-60 from the field. You're not going to win games that way."
While one sophomore had a scoring explosion, Halac credited his starting sophomore — Elle Tubbs — for what he called a "great" defensive performance. Tubbs was given the task of guarding DeWitt sharp shooter Miranda Meland. The Saber finished 3-for-13 matched up against the long but agile River Queen.
"I really was impressed with Tubbs tonight," Halac said.
Clinton entered the final frame trailing 32-21, a large but manageable deficit. The Sabers expanded that by 10 and Kurtz felt it was because fatigue started setting in on the other bench.
Meanwhile, DeWitt saw contributions from seven others in addition to Brainerd. Despite going 0-for-6 from downtown, Meland was second on the team with 6 points. Brittany McNamara chipped in 5.
Action at the Classic continues today with DeWitt and Clinton both taking on Camanche and Prince of Peace this afternoon. First tip is at 1 p.m.
CENTRAL DEWITT 47, CLINTON 26
DeWitt (47): Brittany McNamara 5, Gretchen Henningsen 4, Kali Roling 2, Hailey Saunders 0, Amanda Brainerd 24, Emily Cornelius 2, Miranda Meland 6, Abigail Willis 2, Kaylee Kuehl 2. 19 0 9-19 47.
Clinton (26): Erin Wenzel 12, Elle Tubbs 3, Jordan Nelson 0, McKenzie Petersen 5, Hannah Burken 1, Halle Davis 5, McKenna Greenwalt 0, Shalaya Austin 0. 8 4 6-14 26.
DeWitt 11 7 14 15 — 47
Clinton 4 8 9 5 — 26