Clever beats Lebanon in season opener

LCR photo/Alex Boyer
Lebanon senior Skylyr Leake plays defense against Clever senior Abi Menzies during the first round of the Fair Grove tournament on Monday. The Blue Jays won the contest, 77-74.

By: 
ALEX BOYER ALEX@LACLEDERECORD.COM

FAIR GROVE — If there is such a thing as a good loss, then the Lebanon High School girls’ basketball team accomplished that with a tough defeat to a talented Clever Blue Jays team (ranked No. 5 in Missouri Class 3) in the first round of the Fair Grove Invitational on Monday night, 77-74.

Coming into the contest, Clever was the No. 1 seed in the tournament with Lebanon being seeded last at No. 7.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the ‘Jackets trailed 58-54 and would fall behind as many as seven points late in the contest until two layups from junior Jenna Glendenning cut the deficit to three (74-71) with under two minutes remaining.

After Clever senior Abi Menzies knocked down two of her eight free throws in the fourth quarter, Lebanon desperately needed a basket down by five whenever senior move-in Faith Campbell buried a three-pointer to cut the Blue Jay lead to two points (76-74).

On two consecutive possessions, each team turned the ball over with Lebanon forced to foul Clever’s top player, Harper Little with 13 seconds remaining and no timeouts.

Little went 1-2 from the line to go up by three and finished the game with 23 points, but on the ensuing possession, the ‘Jackets failed to get a shot off and turned the ball over as Clever ran out the clock.

New Lebanon head coach Jacky Payne said after the game that despite the loss, he thought his team hung in there until the end.

“That was a game of would have, could have, should have,” he mentioned. “I thought our kids came out and got after them (Clever). I think we were maybe a little nervous to start the game, but we settled down and played. A possession here, a turnover there, and a make or miss here could have turned that thing in a whole different direction.”

“The Clever coach (Dan Jones) told me after the game that this was the championship match as far as he was concerned, and to be fair, he wasn’t one of the coaches who seeded us last.”

Trailing most of the fourth quarter, Payne said the key to coming back was getting stops and switching to a man-to-man defense.

“It felt like they (Clever) had so much balance,” he said. “They hit some three-pointers and did a good job from the free throw line (19-26 total), but we turned the ball over too much late in the game, and that is something we can fix after we watch the film.”

Glendenning led all scorers in the game with 25 points, with senior Kamryn Mack chipping in 18. Campbell, Skylyr Leake, and Abby O’Connor each added nine points of their own. Baylei Palmer and Makayah Alexander both scored two points.
“I thought Abby and Skylyr did a nice job inside for us all game long,” Payne said. “Kamryn was shooting lights out (on Monday), and we were trying to get her the ball a little more, but they were cheating on her. I thought Faith did a solid job of running the show at the point and Jenna stole the ball and got inside to make some shots for us. I also thought Baylei Palmer played well despite some foul trouble and showed some great leadership on the court.

“It was a good team effort and some silly little things that could have gone the other way, but Clever is a good team who won a lot of games last year, and they will win a lot of games this year.”

With the loss, Lebanon is slated to play Buffalo tonight at Fair Grove starting at 5:39 p.m., and with a win will play again on Friday beginning at 5:00 p.m. The Bison fell to Mountain Home on Monday night.

“We talked about how we did things right and how much upside there is to this team,” Payne said. “The last thing I told the girls before we left the locker room is that the loser of the game between Buffalo and Mountain Home is who we will play, and both of these teams seeded us dead last, so we will see how that one goes.”

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