By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
IOWA CITY —
Facing an unbeaten and No. 1-ranked opponent in the postseason is never an easy task. And Iowa City High certainly didn’t take it easy on Clinton on Saturday night.
With the River Queens determined to shut down 6-foot-3 University of Florida recruit Haley Lorenzen, the Little Hawks were perfectly happy to show off their more-than-capable outside shooting. That, and a shut-down defense that created many fast-break opportunities, led City to its 22nd win of the year, 75-21 in an Iowa Class 5A Region 6 semifinal on the Little Hawks’ home court.
“I’m really proud of how hard our girls work and all the effort,” Clinton coach Mike Halac said. “We knew we were coming against a great team — they’re not No. 1 in the state for no reason, (and) I’d be shocked if they don’t win it all; they’re solid across the board — but I could not be more happy with my girls with how they battled and how they came and gave them everything they have. We didn’t back down physically at all. We stayed strong with them.”
Regardless of the final score, Halac said the Queens could be proud of the way it progressed this season.
“We’re going in the right direction as a program,” Halac said. “We’re very proud of that. We’re very sad to lose those two seniors (Erin Wenzel, who finished her career with 602 points and 531 rebounds, and Jordan Nelson, who ended with 370 points), and our manager Karley (Sullivan), but we’re taking this as a stepping stone. Winning a first-round playoff game is really important. My first year we won one playoff game, last year we didn’t win any, this year we won a home one.”
The River Queens (6-17) advanced to the semifinal with a 63-42 win against Davenport Central in a first-round game Wednesday.
But, City High plays at a much different level than Central, led by Lorenzen, whose father, Al, played basketball for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 1980s, and mother, Karen Napolitano, a field hockey All-American who was the goalkeeper on Iowa’s 1986 national championship team.
Lorenzen, ranked by ESPN as the 35th-best senior in the country, scored just 10 points, but guards Kiera Washpun, Courtney Joens and Peyton Koenig supplied more than enough offense for the Little Hawks.
“We had Jordan guarding Lorenzen most of the second half, and Jordan’s 5-7 on a good day, and she did an unbelievable job on her,” Halac said.
“Our goal coming in was that we were going to do a triangle-and-two on Lorenzen and number 30 (Joens),” Nelson said. “We did a pretty good job. After I switched to Lorenzen, I was determined to stop her and not let her catch the ball.
“Against a team that’s 22-0, you have nothing to lose and the pressure is all on them. That’s what we came in thinking, that we just need to calm down, there was no pressure on us and we just need to play our game. We tried to our best ability, but the outcome just didn’t happen.”
Washpun led the Little Hawks with 25 points, including four 3-pointers; Joens scored 15; and Koenig added nine, all on 3-point baskets.
“We knew that it was going to be a tough battle; they’re ranked No. 1 in the state for a reason,” said Wenzel, who finished with team highs of nine points and eight rebounds. “We knew that we would have to stop Lorenzen, which we pretty much did, but their outside shooters got us tonight.”
City never trailed after Washpun opened the scoring with the first of her four 3-pointers. The Little Hawks led 6-0 when Elle Tubbs put Clinton on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer, but that was as close at Clinton got. City ran off the final seven points of the quarter, and when Joens opened the second quarter with another 3-pointer, the lead was 16-3 with 7:47 left until halftime.
The River Queens kept it fairly even the rest of the half — they trailed 28-10 at halftime — but the Little Hawks made sure the River Queens had no hopes of an upset in the third quarter.
“Being down 18 at halftime, we felt like we were in a pretty good place,” Halac said. “But their defensive pressure is awful tough, and that’s something we’d like to emulate being on defense.”
City High’s defense limited Clinton to two points in the third quarter, and the Little Hawks pulled away on offense.
They scored the first 12 points, including three straight Washpun baskets -- the first off a steal by Joens, the second on a layup when she saw an open lane to the basket and the third on a fast break after Lorenzen blocked a shot.
A putback by Wenzel — she set Clinton’s single-season record by grabbing two offensive rebounds in the game to reach 90 for the season — ended the run, but City scored the final 13 points of the quarter to put the continuous clock in effect after the lead reached 35. Again, Washpun keyed the charge with back-to-back 3-pointers that pushed the lead to 48-12 and a layup that made it 50-12.
The lead ballooned quickly as Koenig ended the third quarter and started the fourth with 3-pointers, then Washpun and Joens had back-to-back three-point plays before a free throw by Hannah Burken ended the run at 22 straight points with 6:36 left in the game.
IOWA CITY HIGH 75, CLINTON 21
CLINTON (6-17) — Halle Davis 0 0-0 0, Erin Wenzel 4 1-3 9, Elle Tubbs 1 0-0 3, Hannah Burken 1 1-3 3, McKenna Greenwalt 0 0-0 0, Jordan Nelson 2 1-2 5, Allysa Butt 0 0-0 0, Emma Gettes 0 0-0 0, Avery Coppess 0 1-2 1, Shalaya Austin 0 0-0 0, McKenzie Petersen 0 0-0 0, Allison McQuistion 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 4-10 21.
CITY HIGH (22-0) — Sarah Plock 0 0-0 0, Sara Blowers 1 0-0 2, Kiera Washpun 10 1-1 25, Bryn Hanrahan 0 0-2 0, Sam Blowers 0 0-0 0, Jessica Onnen 0 0-0 0, Peyton Koenig 3 0-0 9, Ronetta Jenkins 1 0-0 3, Courtney Joens 6 2-2 15, Lillie Christophersen 0 0-0 0, Kenya Earl 3 1-2 7, Emma Pradarelli 0 0-0 0, Haley Lorenzen 5 0-0 10, Venia Xayasene 1 0-0 2, Loshika Emery 1 0-0 2. Totals 31 4-7 75.
Clinton 3 7 2 9 — 21
City 13 15 25 22 — 75
3-point goals — Clinton 1 (Tubbs); City 9 (Washpun 4, Koenig 3, Jenkins, Joens). Total fouls — Clinton 12, City 15. Fouled out — None.