Herald Staff Report
Things went pretty well for Clinton in the first half Tuesday against Dubuque Senior, ranked fourth in Iowa Class 4A boys basketball.
The second half was a different story.
A pair of Jalen Jones free throws tied the score at 23 early in the third quarter, but then Senior was off. Senior scored the next 12 points — seven from Kyle Haber, who scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter — and outscored Clinton 51-19 in the second half to take a 72-40 win.
“They came out in the second half — I don’t think they were happy with the position they were in — and racheted up the intensity level,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “We did not respond. They scored more in transition. We dug ourselves a little hole and instead of responding, we let it snowball.”
Lawrence admitted the height of Senior got to the River Kings in the second half. Senior started four players who were 6-foot, 5-inches tall or taller. The other starter was 6-0. Clinton has only two players — Jones and Brady Ernst — at 6-5 or taller.
“That had a lot to do with the outcome,” Lawrence said. “Without a doubt, they’re one of the biggest teams in the state. We’re not used to seeing guys bigger than us, especially Jalen. He usually guards another perimeter player. Tyler Thacker (standing 5-11) was guarding a 6-8 kid. It wasn’t just their size, but they had athleticism, too. Their big kids are mobile.”
While the final score will garner a lot of attention, Clinton (2-2) played even with the No. 4 team in the state for the first 16 minutes, going into halftime tied at 21.
“That’s absolutely what we have to come away with,” Lawrence said. “We went toe-to-toe with them in the first half. One issue we’ve dealt with is inconsistency. That’s something we need to work on.”
It could have been an even longer night for the River Kings, as Senior scored the first seven points. But Jon Cady got Clinton on the board after coming in off the bench.
“Jon is the guy who has been our spark plug all year,” Lawrence said. “We were struggling to score. He came in and attacked the basket. He went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, but that got us on the board. He’s always producing in some way.”
After a Senior basket, Clinton point guard Javontez Washington got an offensive rebound and a putback. Then Ernst hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Jones. Jones made a jumper than hit Thacker for a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two after one quarter.
The River Kings scored the first four points of the second quarter — a pair of free throws by Ernst and a fastbreak layup by Jones — to take the lead. Jones scored 15 points to lead Clinton.
The Clinton run was also spurred on by a defensive change, from man-to-man to zone.
“What that did more than anything was cause confusion for Senior,” Lawrence said. “They couldn’t get into as much of a rhythm. It gave us the opportunity to get back in the game and the confidence to say, ‘We can play with these guys.’ We were very effective in the zone in the first half.”
DUBUQUE SENIOR 72, CLINTON 40
CLINTON (2-2) — Tyler Thacker 2 0-0 6, Jalen Jones 4 6-7 15, Javontez Washington 1 0-0 2, Brady Ernst 1 2-2 5, Justin Michel 0 1-2 1, Jon Cady 1 3-5 6, Jacob Judd 0 0-0 0, Ashley Jones 1 0-0 3, Austin Reyhons 0 0-0 0, Ben Rowan 0 0-0 0, Rodney Witherspoon 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 12-16 40.
DUBUQUE SENIOR (1-0) — Kyle Holdridge 4 0-0 11, Sam Noel 1 0-0 2, Israel Reeves 1 0-0 3, Taylor Donner 2 0-0 4, Keegan Gallery 0 3-4 3, Parker Hammel 0 0-0 0, Kyle Haber 6 6-8 19, Josh Weeber 2 2-2 6, Luke McDonnell 1 2-2 4, Seth Bonifas 5 4-5 14, Lucas Legrand 3 0-0 6. Totals 25 17-21 72.
Clinton 11 10 7 12 — 40
Senior 13 8 25 26 — 72
3-point goals — Clinton 6 (Thacker 2, J. Jones, Ernst, Cady, A. Jones); Senior 5 (Holdridge 3, Reeves, Haber).