By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CLEVER – The Dora Falcons used a 16-0 run in the first quarter to propel them to a 72-54 nonconference victory, spoiling Senior Night for the Clever Bluejays on Monday.
The game didn’t start that way, though, as Clever came out on fire, scoring the game’s first seven points in the first 1:57.
Dora quickly called time out and then went on its run before closing out the quarter with an 18-9 advantage. The Falcons were able to pick up several steals out of their three-quarter-court press and turned those into points, as Missouri State commit Isaac Haney scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter.
“We knew coming up here, it’d be a tough battle,” Dora coach Rick Luna said. “They’ve been playing very well and they’re a well-coached team. We knew we’d have our hands full with them with their height and just the way they play.
“We’re used to that, you know, as far as sustaining that first rush. But, we kind of settled in and overcame that. They went on a 7-0 run; we went on a (16-0) run, and jumped right back on them. From there, I don’t think we ever gave up the lead.”
Which they didn’t…
Dora led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, but Clever continued to stay within striking distance. A putback at the buzzer by Bryce Gelle pulled the Bluejays to within eight (30-22) going into intermission.
“We kind of carried that (momentum) into the third quarter,” Clever coach Luke Brosius said. “It was about an 8-12-point game there most of the third quarter. And then, honestly, unfortunately, when two of the three Lunas got their third fouls, they had two JV kids in there and Isaac took over a little bit more.
“We weren’t aggressive enough looking to attack the basket. We settled for about four or five 3s toward the end of the third quarter, when we should have been attacking them, and that’s where they stretched it back out.”
Dora did build on its lead in the third quarter, and in the second half, by hitting the boards, continuing to press and not giving Clever many second-chance opportunities.
“I think our intensity picked up,” Haney said of the third quarter. “Anytime that we can put a lot of defensive pressure on a team and turn them over, that’s like what we want to do. We rebounded the ball very well. They have more size on us across the board, but our defensive intensity and the way that we rebounded, it really helped us stretch it out in the second half.”
The Falcons, who ended their regular season with a 25-2 record, had four players score in double figures, led by Haney’s 25. Mason Luna added 15 (11 in the second half), Waylon Masters had 14 (10 in the second half) and 14 rebounds, and Bryson Luna chipped in 10 points.
Even when Haney wasn’t getting shots to fall, he was setting up his teammates to score and they stepped up.
“That’s important, rolling into the late season, that everyone’s rolling and clicking on the same page,” Haney said. “Because we know our ultimate goal is to get back to state championship game and hopefully, win it. And, we can’t do that if one of our guys, or any of the guys off the bench are out of whack, or out of sync. So, it’s really good for games like this for all of us to get involved and everyone get rolling.”
Next up for the Falcons is the Class 1 District 4 tournament at Norwood, where top-seeded Dora will face Exeter.
“I think they all played a great, great (game); that gets us to 25 wins on the season,” Coach Luna said. “But we know going in now, for us, our next games are district games. So, the record goes back to 0-0 and we try to make another run.”
The Falcons came up short of a Class 1 championship last year, falling 75-65 to Jefferson Conception in the final, and hope for another chance to bring home a title.
“We try to take one game at a time and not overlook anybody,” Coach Luna said. “Everybody’s got big expectations for these guys going forward, but we know that it takes one slip-up and the 25 wins don’t mean a thing. We want to get back to where we were last year, and just have another shot at it.”
For Clever (13-11), which was led by Bryce Gelle’s 15 points, one very important game remains on the regular-season schedule: a matchup at Skyline on Thursday night for a shot at a Mid-Lakes Conference title.
“Skyline is a very tough place to play, but one that we feel like if we come to play, we’ve got a shot,” Brosius said. “We’ve only been in the Mid-Lakes for three years now and we’ve never won a Mid-Lakes Conference championship in any sport, so that’s a big deal for our guys. We’re excited about the challenge.”
DORA 72, CLEVER 54
DORA (25-2) – Isaac Haney 25, Bryson Luna 10, Mason Luna 15, Waylon Masters 14, Auston Luna 7, Jacob Freiman 1.
CLEVER (13-11) – Jake Twigg 10, Grant Pellham 5, Bryce Gelle 15, Taylor Genzler 10, Jake Tennis 4, Josh Reeves 6, Bryce Friend 2, Kaden Broome 2.
Clever B 62, Dora B 60
Up next: Dora (1) vs. Exeter, Feb. 22 in Class 1 District 4 at Norwood; Clever at Skyline, Feb. 20