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Clawson goes back to its base defense, clamps down on SCS South Lake to win first-ever MAC tourney title

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 22, 2020, 8:27 pm

WARREN — You can be stubborn as a coach, and stick to your plan, or you can listen to your players, when they tell you it’s not working.

Kelly Horne’s Clawson Trojans let her know that her plan of playing zone against St. Clair Shores South Lake wasn’t a hit with them after the first quarter of Saturday’s Macomb Area Conference Bronze/Silver tournament championship game, and pleaded with her to change it back.

She did, and the Trojans held the Cavaliers to just 18 points after the first quarter, beating South Lake, 47-22, to clinch their first-ever MAC tournament title.

“Defense has been our M.O., the whole year. These kids get after it defensively. We were going to switch it up. Our game plan was to come in and play a little zone, and we did that in the first quarter. They got a couple of 3s out of it, and the girls begged me to come out of it. So we just went straight man, 90 feet of hard-nosed basketball. That’s our game. That’s how we score points. Our defense is our best offense, sometimes,” Horne said.

“I’ve got a couple of leaders on my team that have been around for awhile, and they often times ask to change into different stuff. Do I always go with that? No. But I do like to get a feel for the players on the floor. I’m not out there playing, so what they feel is going to be successful for them. I listened to them today, and it paid off.”

Horne was specifically worried about South Lake freshman Da’Leah Horn, who’d come off the bench for 25 points in the Cavaliers’ 41-39 home win over the Trojans on Jan. 28. 

“She got 25 points against us when they beat us. When she came into thee game, I moved Al Verner, my senior leader on to her, and that’s a huge plus for us. Al likes to block shots … so when she stays on the ground, and forces people to the baseline, she’s a pretty darned good defender,” Horne said. “We kept her (Horn) in check, and we were OK with them shooting 3s, because we knew they weren’t going to beat us from 3-point range.”

The Trojans (16-3, 9-1 MAC Silver) led 9-6 after one quarter, but the defense wasn’t letting them get out into their offense. Once they made the switch back to man-to-man, the Trojans put together a 17-point second quarter, leading 26-15 at the break, and 34-20 headed to the fourth. 

“Offensively, we have a couple of things that we go to. We don’t have that one kid that’s going to score 25 points for us. It’s a true team, offensively, where our defense breeds our offense,’ Horney said. “We can get seals, and rebound, outlet, go, that’s how we score our points. The half-court set’s not our game.”

Justice Biddle had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven steals, while Charlotte Verner had 11 points. 

There was plenty of support for the Trojans in the stands at Warren Cousino for the tournament finale, something that’s been there all season.

“It’s pretty incredible, in terms of the support we’ve had all year. I run the little kids basketball program on Saturday afternoon, so I was there this morning — the girls were there this morning; at 9 a.m., they’re there with the kids — and then we got on the bus at 11:30, and everybody’s just lining the hallways, saying ‘Good luck. Let’s go. We’ll be there to support you,’” Horne said. “It’s a pretty amazing community to live and work in. I love it.”