Clear Lake loses to Eisenhower in the Region III Area Playoffs 70-66
One of the problems with participating in most team sports in high school especially basketball is your team either goes all the way and wins the state championship or you lose the last contest of the season. For most seniors this is particularly unsatisfying. You lose the last game of your high school career. Most high school athletes will not go on to compete on the college level so their career in organized, school sponsored sports is finished with a loss. Everyone would like to go out a winner but unfortunately that’s just not how it works. What should be remembered is the cumulative accomplishments of a very successful season and not just the last game of the season. The 2004 Clear Lake Falcons have a lot to be proud of.
The Clear Lake Falcons basketball season came to a close tonight with their loss to the Eisenhower Eagles. The final score of 70-66 does not indicate how one sided the game was. Turnovers were the most significant weakness for the Falcons all season and in the end, that is what caused them to go down in defeat to Eisenhower. The Falcons averaged almost 15 turnovers per ball game going into tonight’s contest. 15 is an excessive number for a team hoping to advance in the play-offs. Clear Lake faced many teams this season with faster guards and this helps partially explain the turnover rate. But only partially. The Eagles’ impressive quickness on defense and constant defensive pressure in tonight’s game forced the Falcons to set a varsity single game school record for the most turnovers in the history of Clear Lake High School boys basketball if my memory serves me. Would you believe 33 turnovers? Unofficially, my count was even higher but I also count trips down the court without scoring so I could have commingled some of the counts. It was at least 33. It was as if Lake had never seen a trapping defense and they appeared unable to cope with it during most of the first three quarters of the game. Needless to say, the Eisenhower squad was well prepared and effectively implemented their strategy to put two men on the ball almost all the time and to neutralize Lake’s big man, Connor Atchley by swarming him when he received the ball. They had the team speed to do it and it worked.
After a tie early in the first quarter at 6, the Eagles pulled ahead slightly to close out the quarter 16-15. Lake had over ten turnovers in the first quarter.
In the second quarter it was more of the same. Eisenhower’s key players scored at will. Then their defense would “out quick” the Falcons to gain possession of the ball. Even when the Lake players would beat the trap, they would sometimes just throw the ball away. Very frustrating to watch. Imagine how it must have felt for them. During the quarter Lake pulled ahead 25-20 thanks to scoring primarily by Dan Rieke (6 points in the quarter), Aaron Greenwood, and Micah Walker before Eisenhower tied it at 26. At the half it was 31-27 Eisenhower. At this point Eisenhower should have held a much wider margin but fortunately Eisenhower was also playing poorly.
In the third quarter Lake scored only 8 points and committed 12 turnovers. The Eagles scored 21 and were up by 17 points, 52-35 as the quarter closed out. Team quickness by the Eagles was really evident in this period but the lack of depth off the bench for Eisenhower kept the Falcons hopes alive as fatigue started becoming more of a factor late in the quarter. The shooting of Eisenhower’s Alvin Washington, Marcus Allen, and Eric Young combined with the Eagles team speed proved too much for the error prone Falcons until late in the game. At the end of the third, Lake had still not been able to establish a tempo for the game.
In the 4th quarter Lake mounted their comeback. They adjusted to the defensive pressure and despite a game high, and perhaps a high school career high, 26 points from Falcon Dan Rieke, the Falcons were unable to gain the lead. The Falcons outscored the Eagles 31 to 18 in the final period in a valiant effort to come from behind to dig out of the hole created in the three previous quarters. In the last two minutes the game was not out of reach for the Falcons (down by 13) but a few too many successful free throws by Washington (25 points total) and his teammates allowed the Eagles to narrowly hold on to the lead. The Falcons missed 8 free throws in the game and lost by 4. Game MVP honors would definitely have gone to Dan Rieke.
Scoring for the Falcons: Dan Rieke 26 (11 of 15)(9 rebounds), Connor Atchley 11 (4 blocked shots, 6 rebounds), Scott Oswald 10, Lee Mazurek 5, Dennis Cerny 5, Micah Walker 5, Aaron Greenwood 3 (11 rebounds), Chris Mitchell 1. The Falcons shot 46% from the field and were 13 of 21 from the free throw line.
Commentary: We as involved fans usually like to believe our basketball acumen, combined with our willingness to share our opinions, allows us to effectively “out strategize” a coach’s decisions, especially during a close game. My observations of high school basketball have caused me to conclude this is rarely true.
Fans are usually not aware of what goes on in the practices, in the dressing room, in the huddles, and often even on the bench. The steps a coach takes toward a player or players, which might be filed under the heading of “character building for a player or team,” often appear puzzling, confusing or short sighted to the involved fans because the underlying reasons are unknown to us. That is not to say that coaches do not make mistakes but, in most cases, given a more complete understanding of the situation, we would probably take the same steps and make the same decisions as the coach most of the time. Nor am I saying that I do not find myself questioning why a coach does something from time to time. I am saying that we should all try to remember that perhaps we do not have all the facts and to remind ourselves that most coaches, especially veteran coaches in the big 5A schools, really do know what they are doing. They may not all be super motivators or superlative strategists or best buddies with their players but they do know what they are doing. As in any profession or endeavor it is a growth experience over time.
I claim no special insight or knowledge regarding any game events over the course of this season but I am willing to give a coach the benefit of the doubt. Although this is less true for some coaches than it used to be back in the good ole days, being a high school basketball coach is about building character in young people, not just about winning games. I know that may sound naive but I still believe it.