SHEFFIELD TWP. — It was dramatic, exciting and for all the marbles.
It was neck-and-neck most of the way in Clearview’s Frank and Ann Szalay Memorial Gymnasium. And when it was over Clearview owned outright possession of the Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division championship. It was the Clippers’ first since 2008.
The score was 43-40, which was secure only after Clearview (16-4, 14-2) found a way to counter a fourth-quarter Fairview rally. The Warriors had been trailing 32-26 after the third.
It helped when the Clippers’ Sydney Wright drilled a 3-point shot and added two crucial free throws in the late going. Also, Raquel Santana made two key baskets two minutes apart in the last five minutes.
But it really helped when co-captains Desiree Ray and MacKenzie Mielcarek put their heads together and decided it was time to switch from a zone to man-to-man defense midway through the fourth quarter. They called their teammates together and told them about the change.
The move effectively shut down Fairview’s barrage of
3-point baskets, which had kept the Warriors (18-4, 12-4) within striking distance. They had made five in the second half and nine for the game, four by senior sharpshooter Rosalie Morrison.
But let’s not get crazy here. Players making a change in defenses? Isn’t that unheard of?
“My captains are authorized to make changes like that on the floor when they think it will help us win a basketball game,” Clippers coach Nick Dimacchia said. “They know what they’re doing. Anyhow, when they made the call I was getting ready to take a timeout and make the same move, but I couldn’t get time fast enough.”
A three by the Warriors’ Morrison with 4:10 to play tied the game at 36. But it was Fairview’s final 3-pointer.
“This feels good because we haven’t won a conference championship since 2008,” Ray said. “When we were running zone, nobody would come out (on the outside shooters). We decided to go man so they wouldn’t be able to shoot threes like they were.”
With 14 rebounds, Ray finished the game with 999 for her career. She will have chances to reach and surpass the milestone against non-conference rivals Bay and Amherst in the coming week.
The score was tied at 38 when the Clippers’ Wright drilled a huge 3-pointer with 1:08 to play. Although no one knew it at the time, her shot was the winner. Later, she added a pair of foul shots, creating the final score.
“I just knew I had to hit those foul shots because we had to win this game,” Wright said. “It meant so much to us. When I hit the three, I was thinking we can win this. Now we just have to get back and play defense.”
Wright finished with a team-high 13 points. Angel Blakely scored 11 and Raquel Santana added 11. Blakely’s energetic play at point guard was a factor in Clearview’s ability to get the ball inside.
“The way I feel right now is undescribable,” said Blakely, a sophomore who made nine of 10 free throws. “I’m glad we did it with this group of girls. We had the mind-set that we had to get it done. We had to show everyone that Clearview is a team to beat. We come to play.”
The Clippers’ Dimacchia said the game was an excellent prelude to the postseason.
“I’m thinking we have to prepare to possibly play them again in the tournament,” he said. “We’re going to play the winner of Bay and Fairview, so I’m thinking this was a nice step. There was some adversity, we were down (9-2 early) and we found a way to come back and take a one-point lead at the half.”
As for the players’ decision to go to man-to-man, Dimacchia said: “We’ve been preaching to the kids to be creative on the floor. We just want them to play good basketball and I think they did that. So I’m proud of them.”
Fairview’s Morrison finished with a game-high 14 points. Kelsey Bilak added 10, including two of the Warriors’ 3-pointers.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Clearview 43, Fairview 40
FAIRVIEW (40): Brianna Kovacevich 0-0-0, Rosalie Morrison 5-0-14, Kaitlyn Smith 2-3-9, Shannon Gullette 0-0-0, Kelsey Bilak 3-2-10, Rachel Malloy 0-0-0, Megan Coyne 3-0-7. Totals 13-5-40.
CLEARVIEW (43): MacKenzie Mielcarek 1-0-2, Katlynne Baker 1-0-3, Sydney Wright 3-6-13, Desiree Ray 2-0-4, Raquel Santana 4-2-10, Angel Blakely 1-9-11. Totals 12-17-43.
Fairview 9 8 9 14 — 40
Clearview 7 11 14 11 — 43
Three-point goals: Fairview 9-26 (Morrison 4, Bilak 2, Smith 2, Coyne); Clearview 2-11 (Baker, Wright). Field goals: Fairview 13-53 (24.5 percent); Clearview 12-52 (23.1 percent). Free throws: Fairview 5-9 (55.6 percent); Clearview 17-29 (58.6 percent). Rebounds: Fairview 39; Clearview 33. Turnovers: Fairview 15; Clearview. Fouled out: Coyne.
Junior varsity: Clearview, 21-17.