OSCEOLA — Monday's boys basketball game in Osceola proved as topsy-turvy as could be expected of a season opener with young players and new dynamics being put in place by both visiting Mount Ayr and hosts Clarke.
The Raiders, who at one point put together a 24-0 run in the first half after falling behind early, had to hold off the Indians multiple times in securing a 68-54 win in front of a raucous crowd at Clarke.
The Indians emptied their bench early and often as they employed a full-court press set to harass and fluster the Raiders, and for the early minutes of action, it succeeded.
“I was very happy with the way we started," Clarke coach Jim Dingeman said after the completion of his first varsity game as head coach. "We decided we were going to start with the rest to get the energy level up and it really worked. Guys were flying all over the place and we were picking off passes."
As Mount Ayr's athletes became accustomed to the pace, the Raiders began to make plays and finish scoring opportunities, as a 14-6 deficit turned into a 30-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
Contributions came from all over, but no one on the court was more impressive than the duo of Dawson Frost (20 points) and Lucas Wurster (19 points), who dictated the pace as the half wore on.
Just when Mount Ayr seemed to be rolling along on in all facets, Clarke responded with a Payton Winship coast-to-coast bucket and a Cobey Robins triple that breathed back into Clarke's bench and fans.
Speedy senior guard Byron Rivera then scored six straight points for Clarke on his way to a team-high 17 points. Rivera showed the confidence of a grizzled veteran, which could prove vital as his 2.9 points per game a year ago are now likely to rocket skyward as he establishes himself as a scoring threat.
An 11-point halftime advantage dwindled to four when Dalton Stubbe hit one of his two treys to cut the score to 44-40.
“We talked at halftime, down 11 and talked about getting it back to six in the first two minutes," Clarke coach Jim Dingeman said.
Though Mount Ayr's offense slowed down, it soon benefited from a huge pick-me-up.
Mount Ayr freshman Payton Weehler then had his first big varsity moment.
Wheehler hit a bucket near the end of the third quarter, and proceeded to knock down 3-pointers from the left wing on consecutive possessions to start the fourth to stretch the Raider lead to 56-43.
“Payton Weehler is a firecracker. He goes off pretty quick. He’s not a consistent guy, but he’ll do that," Ruggles said.
“He’s that spark off the bench we need and I thought he responded really well.”
While Clarke did cut the score to 60-52 after consecutive buckets by Garrett Moore that included a nifty alley-oop layup by Moore on the receiving end of a pass from Zach Smith, the Indians got no closer.
“Overall I thought we were very good," Dingeman said. "We’ve got a lot to work on, but the reason we got sunk was little things.”
UP NEXT — Clarke plays host to Chariton on Friday.
MA (68) — 23 16 11 18
Cl (54) — 14 14 15 11
MA (FG FT PTS) — Totals — 26 11-23 68. Dawson Frost 8 4-6 20, Lucas Wurster 8 1-1 19, Payton Weehler 5 0-2 12, Myles Greene 2 0-0 5, John Shields 1 3-6 5, Isaac Grose 2 0-2 4, Brad Wurster 0 3-6 3. 3-point goals — 5 (L. Wurster 2, Weehler 2, Greene 1). Assists — 7 (Greene 6). Rebounds — 34 (Shields 10, Grose 8, Frost 7, Weehler 3). Steals — 16 (L. Wurster 3, Greene 3, Frost 3, Weehler 3, Shields 3). Team fouls — 12. Fouled out — None.
Cl (FG FT PTS) — Totals — 20 7-14 54. Byron Rivera 7 2-3 17, Cobey Robins 4 2-2 14, Garrett Moore 3 0-0 6, Dalton Stubbe 2 0-0 6, Taylor Henry 1 0-0 3, Payton Winship 1 0-2 2,Trevor Boyce 1 0-0 2, Chris Carson 1 0-2 2, Remington Cook 1 0-0 2. 3-point goals — 7 (Robins 3, Stubbe 2, Rivera 1, Henry 1). Team fouls — 22. Fouled out — Robins.