Clarkston ensures no early district exit this time, blowing past Romeo early
WATERFORD — Even with the new era of seeded districts, there are still going to be first-round upsets.
The Clarkston Wolves were just adamant that it wasn’t going to be them going home right off the bat, this time around.
“The girls were ready. We were ready. After getting bounced in the first round last year, I knew they weren’t going let that happen today. They just worked their butt off all week, and we’ve been ready all year,” said Clarkston coach John Weyer, whose team fell behind 2-0, then ripped off the next 20 points of the game, to build a 23-point halftime lead in Monday’s district opener. “When we’re at our best, that’s what we can do, in the first half.”
Helped by the big early lead, Clarkston (17-4) finished off a 58-32 win over Romeo (8-13) in the Division 1 district at Waterford Kettering, and moves on to Wednesday’s semifinal game against Lake Orion (7-13).
Rochester Adams (13-8) beat Oxford (6-15), 53-34, in Monday’s early game, and will face the host Captains (10-10) in Wednesday’s early game.
Last year, the Wolves went out in their postseason first game, falling to eventual district champ Waterford Kettering, 52-37, in the district semifinals.
The difference for Clarkston? It might just be that it was 362 days ago.
“We’re older. Last year, we didn’t have any seniors. The leadership of Taylor Heaton … if you talk to that kid, you know what kind of leader she is. She’s just amazing. She solidifies us, from the inside out. To have her on the court, to have her in practice, it’s kind of like having another coach there — that’s doing it with them. It means so much more when it comes from her,” said Weyer, who still only has the one senior in his primary playing rotation.
“Absolutely (the lack of seniors contributed). Unless you’re Detroit Edison, if you don’t have seniors on your team, you’re not going far in the tournament. You need that leadership, you need that voice, that girl on the court to grab you and pull you aside and get you out of your head. Because a lot of times, these girls get in their head, and their games start shutting down. You gotta make sure you have that leadership.”
The Wolves also have the advantage of multiple scoring options, and were able to bomb away from the outside when the Bulldogs’ first-half strategy had them sinking back in a zone.
“At first, we kind of slacked off, because we knew they could really move the ball. So we wanted to play a little bit slower tempo, which for us, is a big adjustment, because we’re a running team, but we knew they’d be a little bit faster than us,” said Romeo coach Kathy Bosheers.“We knew that they had a couple of outside 3 shooters that were really consistent, but we had a couple that stepped up and made a 3 that we didn’t expect, so that’s where we had to make the adjustment, yeah.”
Kaelyn Kaul hit a pair of 3s in the first half, while Heaton had one. Morgan Hunter had three, part of her 13 first-half points.
“When you’re hitting your shots early, everything’s good — better than missing your shots early,” Weyer said. “We can shoot. And everybody (on the team) can shoot. If they’re going to leave Mo (Hunter) alone, she’s going to hit that shot. If you’re going to leave her alone, she’s going to hurt you. She’s not just an inside girl.”
The Wolves led 20-2 after a quarter, and would extend it to 22-2 before Raegan Mazur scored for Romeo with 5:20 left in the first half to end Clarkston’s run. The Wolves still managed to add to the lead, pushing it to 34-11 at the break, and 47-21 going to the fourth.
Still, the second half was a bit more even, once the Bulldogs decided to turn the dogs loose.
“It was more or less a thing of starting 0-0, and go play by play. I think if you look at the overall score of the second half, it would’ve been 24-21, so I’m really pleased with that and thrilled with that. I think we got after them a little bit more, took care of the ball a little bit better. And I think just putting more pressure on them,” Bosheers said.
Hunter had a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds for Clarkston, while Olivia Toderan had 14 points, and Heaton added 12.
Ava Muschong led Romeo with 13 points.
“For us, it was a big learning season. We had a big change in personnel, so we’re a pretty young team. We’re losing four seniors, and of those four, two had a lot of game time,” Bosheers said. “So we’re a young team, and the future looks really good, but of course we’re appreciative of all the effort the seniors put in.”