McFARLAND — On paper, Thursday night’s Rock Valley Conference crossover game should have been a battle of big men.
But with both McFarland’s Cory Frank and Clinton’s Cody Risseeuw fighting foul trouble and fatigue for most of the evening, it was the Cougars backcourt that stole the show.
“Somebody had to step up,” Clinton senior guard Jalen McMartin said. “Any one of us could have stepped up, (but) my shots were falling.”
McMartin helped the Cougars claw back from an early deficit with 13 first-half points and sophomore guard Luke Risse was perfect from the free throw line down the stretch to help the Southern Rock Valley front-runners pull away for a 65-56 win.
“I think the big guys really put a lot of pressure on themselves tonight with so many college coaches in the stands watching them,” Clinton coach Denny Morris said. “When they went to the bench, Jalen McMartin just really stepped up.”
After his team worked its way into an early 8-0 hole, McMartin hit a 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer to pull Clinton within a point.
Then, after Risseeuw headed to the bench with his third foul before the halfway mark of the second quarter, McMartin rose to the challenge again, hitting all but two of the Cougars’ second-quarter field goals to keep the game even at halftime.
“Their guards outplayed our guards,” McFarland coach Jeff Meinholdt said. “That’s the bottom line.”
With Clinton holding a 45-41 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, Risse made the most of his opportunities at the line. His 10-for-10 effort helped hold off a Spartans rally fueled by an 11-point quarter by Frank.
“I started to feel it a little bit,” Risse said. “I just wanted to get the ball and help my team out.
“I like where we are (right now).”