LEON — Clarke head girls basketball coach Eric Zoske was glad his team faced a tough challenge here on Dec. 3 against a tough Central Decatur team.
“I’m glad we got pressed,” he said. “With this being a non-conference game, it’s good to run into Earlham, good to run into Central Decatur — two very good teams. Now it’s time to start working toward our goal.”
That goal is a fourth-straight South Central Conference championship.
The Lady Indians got off to a good start toward that goal by picking up a 53-41 win at Centerville on Dec. 5, but a pair of season-opening losses showed the Lady Indians what they need to work on in order to achieve that goal.
“We knew we’re going to get pressed until we can prove that we can handle the press,” Zoske said after his team struggled with Central Decatur’s fullcourt pressure in a 64-37 loss. “Now, we didn’t make bad passes — we had six travels in the first half and zero in the second half.
“Ten turnovers in the first half and four in the second. Fourteen is fine, but our guards just need a little more confidence. It’s just that we’re young and inexperienced at that position.”
Central Decatur took advantage of that inexperience, as the Cardinals raced to a 34-14 halftime lead on the strength of their defense.
Junior Hallie Linhart proved to be a tough matchup for the Lady Indians, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while dishing out five assists. Junior Lydia Martin added 15 points for the Cardinals. Kate Havens added 10 points with nine rebounds.
Meanwhile, in addition to struggling with the press, Clarke struggled to get the ball through the hoop early in the game. The Lady Indians managed just one field goal in the first quarter.
“What do you say? We’re missing wide open shot after wide open shot,” Zoske said. “We got wide open shots, they just weren’t going in. Any player loses confidence when you’ve missed four or five in a row. I preach to these girls, if you’re 0-for-5, your goal is to go 1-for-6. If you’re wide open, shoot the ball. You have the green light.”
Clarke eventually got some shots to fall, scoring 23 points in the second half, but it was too little too late.
Foul trouble also hampered the Lady Indians early in the game, as both Libby Bemis and Baylie Balcaen fell into foul trouble.
“That’s all the difference in the world,” Zoske said. “We’re a different team when Libby’s not on the floor. Then Baylie picked up three and now we’re in real trouble. These girls that come in off the bench, they’re young, but they sure do try hard. I credit them for doing that. We are not a deep team, so we need to stay out of trouble.”
Carley Robins led the Lady Indians with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor to go with nine rebounds. Bemis chipped in 11 points. In her return to the starting lineup after missing the first game with injury, Devon Carson scored four points.
Clarke bounced back to pick up its first win of the season in a conference road game at Centerville on Dec. 5, winning 53-41.
Bemis had a big game, scoring 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go along with a team-high six boards. Robins added 12 points with five rebounds. Balcaen scored seven points with five rebounds. Maddi Heath chipped in six points, while Carson netted four points and Sydnee Redman scored two.