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Victory just out of reach for CCA Clipper girls

End season with 44-35 loss
CCA’s Abbi Kinnaird battles Clinton’s McKenzie Petersen for a rebound in the first half of the Class 4A regional quarterfinal game, Wednesday, Feb. 17, in Tiffin. Kinnaird had 10 points in the 44-35 loss. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

TIFFIN– Coach P.J. Sweeney was baffled. He’d watched every bit of video he could find on the Clinton River Queens and scouted them. He thought he’d cooked up a plan to get the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Clippers through their Class 4A quarterfinal round game against the Clinton River Queens.
But after 32 minutes of basketball and a 44-35 loss, Sweeney and company were performing an autopsy to determine what had gone wrong.
The Clippers entered the contest with an 8-13 record to Clinton’s 3-19 showing. Sweeney knew that figure was a bit deceptive, however, as the River Queens, in their first year in 4A after having been a Class 5A program, were playing powerhouse teams in the Mississippi Athletic Conference (MAC). In other words; many losses, but losses to some of the best on the east end of the state.
Then there was the Queens’ defense, which was not what Sweeney had expected.
“Everything I saw on film, and when I scouted them, they played everybody straight-up man-to-man with very little 2-3 zone. And, they didn’t have anything to lose, they changed things up and it worked out for them. They packed it in on us… and to be honest, I didn’t expect that.”
He also didn’t expect the Creek Girls to go cold at shooting.
“We’re a good shooting team… and we could not get a shot to fall, just couldn’t get one to go. They just had us really struggling, credit to them (Clinton) they had a lot to do with it, but we just struggled shooting the ball.”
The Clippers quickly found themselves in trouble in the first period mustering only five points off two field goals from Claire Navara and Abbi Kinnard, and a free throw from Kinnaird while the Queens enjoyed a 6-2 run and had a 10-5 lead at the end of the quarter. Navara scored the Clippers’ only two points of the second period with a layup as the Queens stretched the lead to 19-8 at the half.
Natalia Turner came alive in the third period with a pair of 3-point goals, which was followed by a Kinnaird 3-bomb to close the gap to four points at 21-17. Unfortunately that was as close as they would get.
“If we could’ve made more shots, I think we would’ve had a chance,” Sweeney said. “But we just could not get the ball to fall.”
The win for Clinton snapped an 11-game losing streak. For the Clippers, the loss continued a lack of district (regional) wins going back 14-15 years. “It’s been a long, long time,” Sweeney said. “And we talked about that a little bit, ‘Let’s be the team that breaks through,’ and I don’t know if maybe they felt the pressure. I feel real bad for them, I thought we were making some headway, I really did. We had six good practices leading up to tonight. Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would struggle shooting the ball… I just didn’t think it was gonna happen.”
Turner and Kinnaird led CCA with 10 points each while Clinton’s McKenzie Petersen led all with 11.
It was the final game for seniors Jacquelyn Fairholm, Natalia Turner and Alissa Schwarting.
“Natalia, she’s worked hard in practice the last three years and just kinda waited her turn, and this was her year,” Sweeney said. “Alissa didn’t go out last year, she decided to come out this year…’I’m only in high school once, I’m only a senior once,’ and she made the most of it, and she was starting to make some headway for us. Jacquelyn, she’s just such an ‘effort’ kid. She just gets after it, she knows her role… she’s not gonna score 20 points for you but she’s gonna get rebounds and kinda do the dirty work.”
The Clippers finished the season at 8-14 overall.
Looking ahead to next season, with 11 players expected to return, it would appear the Clippers won’t be rebuilding, they’ll be reloading.
SCORING: N. Turner 10, A. Kinnaird 10, C. Navara 6, B. DeShaw 4, E. Navara 3, L. Helle 2.
3-POINT GOALS: Turner 3, Kinnaird 2.