By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – Clear Creek Amana senior Claire Navara knew in order for her team to make history on Wednesday that she probably would have to make some big shots.
It was mission accomplished in both respects as Navara made five 3-point baskets and scored 17 points to lead the Clippers past Benton Community 53-40 in a Class 4A district quarterfinal at home.
Wednesday’s playoff victory was a long time coming, considering Clear Creek Amana hadn’t won a district game in nearly two decades.
“It’s awesome,” Navara said. “We’ve been hearing about it since we were freshmen; no one’s won it, no one’s won it. And every year, it’s been the goal and we finally did it.
“So it’s great and so many people are here.”
The Clippers improved to 13-9 and will face 4A sixth-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier in a district semifinal on Saturday at Xavier.
“I haven’t even talked about that,’ said Clipper coach P.J. Sweeney. “I just basically told them to enjoy this one. We’ll worry about Xavier tomorrow.
“It’s been 19 years since the last time we won a district game. It’s been a long time.”
The Clippers bolted to a 10-0 lead and led 12-4 after the first quarter. Navara and freshman Karsyn Stratton scored all of Clear Creek’s points in the first quarter with each getting six apiece.
Navara made two of her five 3-pointers in the first quarter.
“We wanted a fast start and Claire hit some shots and that kind of set the tone for the game,” Sweeney said. “We ran a little bit of a two-two-one press on them and I don’t think they were quite ready for it and we were able to get some steals and deflections and some easy baskets.
“From there, we just had the momentum and we carried it on through the rest of the game.”
Benton struggled against Clear Creek’s pressure defense, especially early in the game, and only made 1-of-14 field-goal attempts in the first quarter.
The Bobcats also had trouble shooting over 6-foot-1 senior center Lauren Helle, who blocked three shots in the first quarter.
“If we do get beat off the dribble or get beat off a screen or whatever, Lauren is back there to protect the rim and cover up some of our deficiencies at times,” Sweeney said of Helle. “She’s a difference maker back there blocking shots and rebounding.”
Navara had plenty of help on offense from Stratton, who finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field.
Benton cut the deficit to 36-25 in the third quarter, but Navara answered with her fifth 3-pointer in the game. Her basket triggered an 11-2 scoring for the Clippers, who led 47-27 after three quarters.
“I was just ready to go from the get go,” said Navara, who made all five of her team’s 3-point baskets. “I told myself to shoot it when I’m open because I was feeling it before the game.”
As a senior, Navara is playing with a sense of urgency knowing that her career will end with a loss.
“Yeah, for sure,” she said. “This is my last go-around. It’s do or die.”
As for ending the drought in district play, Navara said she felt more incentive than pressure.
“We knew it was doable,’ she said.
Benton Community 4 9 14 13 – 40
Clear Creek Amana 12 15 20 6 – 53
Benton Community (40) – Jessie Havlik 0-4 1-2 1, Laura Maschino 3-3 0-0 7, Leah VanWeelden 3-12 4-4 12, Karly Miner 3-6 2-4 10, Jaicee Lyons 1-5 0-0 2, Kasi McWhorter 0-6 2-2 2, Mallory Thys 0-2 0-00 0, Shelby Kaestner 1-2 0-0 2, Rachel Maschino 0-1 0-0 0, Dianna Handley-McCain 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 13-43 9-12 40.
Clear Creek Amana (53) – Karsyn Stratton 8-13 4-5 20, Claire Navara 6-12 0-0 17, Lauren Helle 4-8 0-0 8, Meagen Harvey 2-4 0-0 2, Be DeShaw 0-2 0-0 0, Abbie Kinnaird 1-6 0-0 2, Erin Navara 1-1 0-0 2, Jordan Neely 0-2 0-0 0, Megan Cronbaugh 0-0 0-0, Andrea Roller 0-0 0-0 0, Elizabeth Sweeney 0-0 0-0 0, Lydia Banwart 0-0 0-0 0, Katie Pitlick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-48 4-5 53.
3-point goals – Benton 5 (VanWeelden 2, Miner 2, L. Maschino); Clear Creek Amana 5 (C. Navara 5). Fouls – Benton 12, Clear Creek Amana 10.