LEON — Both teams came in receiving recognition from the state.
Central Decatur came into the matchup ranked 12th in Class 2A, while the Clarke Indians came in ranked 15th in Class 3A.
But, only one team could emerge victorious Monday, as the two teams battled it out in an exciting, back-and-forth game that came right down to the wire.
Clarke emerged with a 48-46 win after trailing by seven with just 2:38 remaining in the game.
“First of all, that’s a very good team we just played,” Clarke head coach Eric Zoske said. “I bet they’re going to have a great year. Their goal was probably conference and state just like ours were. Maybe we play 10 times, and we probably go 5-5 versus each other, so all the respect in the world for that team we just beat.”
Zoske called a timeout with 2:38 remaining in the game after Central Decatur’s Sadie Greene had just knocked down two free throws to put the Cardinals up 43-36.
“I called a timeout to tell our girls, ‘I have faith in you. Calm down, shoot with confidence. You’re going to have to make some free throws,’” Zoske said. “We were down by seven with two minutes left, and free throws were a big reason for that.”
Zoske drew up a play for junior Libby Bemis during the timeout, and coming out of the timeout, Bemis gathered her own rebound after a miss, got the putback and drew a foul.
After the free throw made the score 43-39, Clarke’s Kacey Klemesrud gathered a defensive rebound, dribbled down the floor and nailed a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key to narrow the margin to 43-42 with 1:20 left.
“Kacey’s 3-pointer was really nice, too,” Zoske said. “What it does, the pressure was on us until Kasey hit that. The big mo (momentum) changes, and it worked in our favor today.”
Klemesrud finished with a game-high 21 points.
After a Central Decatur timeout, Clarke senior Kylar McCann stepped up the defensive intensity, blocking a Mary Akers shot on the first possession out of the timeout, which led to a free throw opportunity for Devon Carson.
Carson hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 43-43 with :40 left.
On the ensuing Cardinal possession, McCann stole the ball away from Greene and then drew a foul on Greene — her fifth — before knocking down one of two free throws to give Clarke a one-point advantage with :32.6 remaining.
“We had to make a late-game adjustment there,” Zoske said. “Kasey had four fouls with about six minutes left in the game, and had to take her off Sadie Greene, who is a very good player. Kylar took over that role and she did a phenomenal job.”
Brittany Binning took a shot and missed, and Desi Gentry gathered an offensive rebound but missed the putback before fouling Klemesrud with :14.4 left. Klemesrud knocked down both free throws, giving Clarke a 46-43 lead, completing a 10-0 run.
Cardinal junior Caitlyn Saxton made one of two free throws, cutting the lead to 46-44, but Central Decatur was forced to foul, sending McCann to the line for two free throws, where she made both.
McCann finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and adding 13 rebounds.
Binning knocked down a jumper from the wing with :0.7 left, cutting the lead to 48-46.
On the ensuing inbounds pass, Central Decatur tipped the ball, but couldn’t corrall it in time to get off a desperation shot at the basket, and Clarke held on to win, 48-46.
“We knew it would be a good game, just because they have a lot coming back and they’re a good team,” Central Decatur head coach Curtis Boothe said. “We let a few things slip with some rebounds and had a stretch there in the fourth quarter where we just didn’t play very well. It was a good game both ways.”
Central Decatur led most of the way, thanks in large part to 17 points from Hallie Linhart and 11 points from Greene.
Clarke, now 2-0, hosts Centerville today before hosting Chariton on Monday. Central Decatur, 1-1, hosts Pleasantville on Friday.
CENTRAL DECATUR (46) — Hallie Linhart 7 2-3 17, Sadie Greene 3 4-4 11, Brittany Binning 2 1-2 5, Desi Gentry 1 2-3 4, Caitlyn Saxton 0 3-5 3, Mary Akers 1 0-0 3, Kim Yoder 1 0-0 3. Totals — 15 12-17 46. 3-point goals — 4 (Greene 1, Akers 1, Yoder 1, Linhart 1). Steals — 9 (Linhart 4, Binning 2). Rebounds — 22 (Linhart 7, Binning 5, Greene 3). Assists — 9 (Greene 3, Saxton 2, Binning 2). Team fouls — 19. Fouled out — Greene.
CLARKE (48) — Kacey Klemesrud 8 7-8 21, Kylar McCann 3 5-6 11, Libby Bemis 3 3-6 9, Carley Robins 2 0-0 4, Devon Carson 1 1-2 3 . Totals — 15 16-22 48. 3-point goals — 2-15 (Klemesrud 2). Rebounds — 38 (McCann 13, Bemis 6, Klemesrud 4, Sarah Pate 4, Robins 3, Carson 3). Assists — 6 (Carson 2). Steals — 6 (McCann 3). Team fouls — 15. Fouled out — none.
CD — 9 26 35 46
Clarke — 10 23 31 48