Prep Girls Basketball

Indians use 'been there' approach to ignore pressure

A teary-eyed Michelle Hess gives hugs to Abby Ellison, left, and her daughter, Drenda Hess, after Clark County's 50-48 victory over Lutheran North in the Missouri Class 3 girls basketball quarterfinals at Warrenton High School. | H-W Photo/David Adam
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 3, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 4, 2018 12:11 am

WARRENTON, Mo. -- When Clark County's Maggie Schutte and Drenda Hess walked on the floor before the start of overtime, they both were giggling.

"(Drenda) went to the wrong end of the floor," Schutte said. "We laughed and then just said, 'We've got this.'"

With 18.7 seconds left in overtime, Aubry Boulware was assigned to guard Lutheran North's Syndey Dukes as she tried to inbound the ball. Just before the official handed Dukes the ball, Boulware looked up in the crowd and smiled.

"It was one of my best friends," Boulware said. "She's in college now, and she was yelling at me. I knew we had all that support. It was just wonderful."

The Clark County girls team melted -- under the defensive pressure by Lutheran North and the pressure of the moment -- during last year's 64-52 loss in the Class 3 quarterfinal game.

Learning from that experience helped them play with smiles on their faces Saturday in a 50-48 overtime victory in a quarterfinal rematch with the Crusaders at Warrenton High School.

"We knew there would be pressure because we were here last year," Boulware said. "We knew we've just got to have fun and play our game, and the pressure will go away."

"We knew if we would play tight, it wasn't going to work out," Abby Brown said.

The Indians' 2-3 zone suffocated the Crusaders in the first half. Lutheran North missed 16 of 21 shots, and Clark County led 22-12 at halftime.

"We had to handle the pressure the first four or five minutes. I told them to act like you've been here," Indians coach John Weaver said. "I knew we weren't afraid of the moment."

Just as important was the fact that Clark County, which turned the ball over 28 times last year, was better prepared for the Crusaders' defensive pressure. Rather than depend solely on the guards to handle the ball, Brown and Carissa Bevans helped bring it up.

"Their defense is crazy," Bevans said. "We haven't seen defense like that all year. We knew we needed to come to the ball when we passed it."

"Coach (John) Weaver told me the past couple of practices that I was going to have to handle the ball and bring it up the court," Brown said. "We knew what their pressure was going to be like, and we were ready for it this year."

"I didn't have to sell that," Weaver said.

Also benefiting the Indians were the experiences learned from several close games during the postseason.

Clark County trailed Bowling Green 39-38 after three quarters in the sectional before rallying to win 49-42. The Indians trailed Monroe City 42-37 with 1:33 remaining but pulled off a dramatic 45-44 victory in the district title game, and it only led 32-29 in the fourth quarter of its district semifinal game against Palmyra before winning 52-45.

"We've been there before," Weaver said.

That confidence of how to handle the final minutes was evident in Schutte's top-of-the-key jumper with 54 seconds left. She missed all five shots she had taken to that point, but she never flinched on her big basket.

"We gave away a few uncontested shots, and I was upset about that, but then you have the one that is contested, and outside of blocking it or fouling her, what are you going to do?" Lutheran North coach Chris Forrest said. "Sometimes, people who aren't your best shooters become shooters in playoff games."

"I think everybody just stopped to watch (Schutte's shot)," Boulware said. "When it went in, I was like, 'Oh my gosh. We just did that."

Clark County has been one of the best teams in northeast Missouri for the past three years, winning 73 games and three Clarence Cannon Conference championships.

It will be this team, however, that will be remembered for getting the Indians back to the state tournament for the first time in 23 years.

"It's huge for our confidence, and it's huge for the whole program," Weaver said. "I'm not sure many people thought we'd win, but we did. This isn't for just our 11 kids. This is for the whole community and all the kids who helped us get to this stage in the past few years."