The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

December 15, 2012

Backup has plan of her own to beat Queens

CLINTON — As he prepared his Clinton High girls basketball team for Davenport Assumption, the top-ranked team in the Iowa Class 3A state ratings, coach Mike Halac emphasized one thing to his players.

“Our talk going in was we were not going to let Danielle Moore and Kate Fennelly beat us,” Halac said.

The River Queens held those two players, who entered the game as Assumption’s top scorers, to a modest 19 points.

Unfortunately for the Queens, senior reserve Morgan Pavlich had the game of her life and led the Knights to a 76-23 victory Friday night at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium. Pavlich, who entered the game with 19 points in five games, had more than that by halftime and finished with 26.

“We made somebody else beat us,” Halac said.

Pavlich was the player few would have expected to do it, including herself.

“I honestly don’t know,” she responded when asked where her performance came from. “Never in my life (had she had a game anywhere near it).”

Assumption coach Mallory Youngblut couldn’t have expected it, either, but she wasn’t totally surprised that Pavlich would contribute to a win.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “Morgan is a great player. She probably would start on many teams in the conference. Sometimes it’s great to have a spark off the bench.”

The Knights (6-0, 5-0 Mississippi Athletic Conference) realized what the River Queens wanted to do.

“They were concentrating on Danielle and Katie, and that left me open,” Pavlich said. “I was just really glad I could play a good role and get our team started.”

Clinton wasn’t in bad shape when it broke Assumption’s press and freshman Hannah Burken made a layup to tie the game at 4. But then Assumption went on one of the runs it’s famous for, and Pavlich was right in the middle of things.

Coming out of a timeout with 3 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first quarter, a layup by Moore put the Knights on top 6-4. Pavlich followed with three consecutive 3-point baskets, and a steal and layup by Moore pushed the lead to 17-4.

“She goes in in a close game and knocks down two 3s that change the whole momentum of the game,” Youngblut said.

A free throw by Clinton freshman Gracie Buech ended Assumption’s run, but it didn’t stop Pavlich or the Knights.

“I definitely gained a lot of confidence after the second 3-pointer,” Pavlich said.

She opened the second quarter with two more 3-pointers, making her 5-for-5 beyond the arc, and pushing the lead to 20, 27-7.

Her first miss came when she made 1 of 2 free throws moments later, then, shortly after she finally missed a 3-pointer, she was fouled trying another. A technical foul on the play kept her at the line for five consecutive free throws, and she made all of them to make it 38-11.

“I think the more I shot the free throws, the more nervous I got,” Pavlich said.

Pavlich added two more free throws before the half ended to give her 23 points. The Knights even stretched the lead to 30 at halftime when Kristin Ketelaar’s 3-pointer made it 47-17.

Most of the second half was played under a continuous clock after Assumption built a 35-point lead, but Pavlich managed one more 3-pointer to give her six for the game.

“She was one away from breaking our record,” Youngblut said. “If we don’t play with the running clock she probably sets the record.”

Halac gave Pavlich her due, but he also praised his players.

“She had a great shooting night, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way my girls played,” he said. “It went from 4-4 to 17-4 very quickly, but our girls didn’t make any mistakes. They just hit some very tough shots. Our scheme worked. We did a good job down low.”

Erin Wenzel led Clinton with seven points, Jordan Nelson finished with five and Elle Tubbs had four.

“Erin busted her butt, Elle figured out what being aggressive,” he said.

The River Queens return to action Tuesday when they play host to Bettendorf at 7:30 p.m.

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