CLINTON — Can Scott High beat Clinton?
It’s a question that’s been asked since well before the 2021-2022 season began, and the answer is expected to be a defining part of the Highlanders’ season.
The first look at the answer wasn’t promising, as Clinton stormed back from a double-digit second half deficit — without its best player — to defeat Scott on Friday, 51-49.
The Highlanders led by as much as 16 points in the second half, and by as much as 12 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t close the deal against the Dragons. With a raucous home crowd fueling the surge, Clinton slowly clawed all the way back, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final minute of the game to pull out the win.
For Scott — which was out-scored by Clinton 22-8 down the stretch — the fourth quarter collapse was disheartening, not just because Clinton managed to come back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, but because the Dragons did it without their leading scorer, a Mr. Basketball candidate who missed the game with illness.
But, in the end, neither team’s best player was on the floor. Scott’s Trey Morrow — himself a Mr. Basketball candidate — fouled out of the game with nearly three minutes remaining and the Highlanders still clinging to the lead.
Morrow’s early exit was one of several costly snafus that were made in the fourth quarter. With four minutes remaining, Morrow only had two fouls. He was quickly assessed his last three — one on a very questionable call, and another on a foul that was actually committed by one of his teammates.
Then, with Clinton intentionally fouling to send Scott to the line, the Dragons’ bookkeeper — who was the official book since it was Clinton’s home game — told officials Clinton had committed only nine team fouls, which meant the Highlanders shot a one-and-one instead of two free throws.
It was actually Clinton’s 10th foul. Scott High missed the front end of the one-and-one and Clinton rebounded.
But neither the referees nor the bookkeeper were a part of the Highlanders’ missed free throws. As a team, they missed five straight to end the game.
Clinton, meanwhile, nailed a 3-pointer to take a 48-47 lead with 30 seconds remaining. Luke West, who tied Morrow with 14 points, hit a jumper at the other end to put the Highlanders back on top, 49-48. But the Dragons nailed another 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Scott High was left with a desperation heave from mid-court, which was off the mark as time expired.
Scott High will be tasked with attempting to get back on task during the Christmas break, with tournaments scheduled for Oneida and Maryville. A season that started with high expectations and seven straight wins has sputtered a little in December. Scott goes into the holiday break having lost three of their last six, and sitting in third place in District 4-3A.
SCOTT (49): Morrow 14, West 14, Todd 8, Prewitt 7, Jeffers 3, Strunk 3.
CLINTON (51): Blavvelt 18, Harrison 16, Thackerson 11, Bright 4, Botinger 2.