Climax Springs basketball teams sweep Macks Creek

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Climax Springs junior Mark Henderson lays in a shot past Macks Creek senior Trevor Haines on Tuesday, January 19, in Macks Creek. Henderson led all scorers with 20 points.

Climax Springs boys hold off Macks Creek

Climax Springs made the plays that were necessary Tuesday night in a trip to Macks Creek. 

A few key defensive stops and some free throws down the stretch helped the Cougars pick up their second win of the season against their neighbors after the two sides recently met in the Skyline Tournament, but the Pirates did not make it easy in a 49-41 win for Climax Springs. 

“We kind of stuck in there. We did not play very well, but give coach credit from Macks Creek and their boys for putting pressure on us offensively,” Climax Springs coach James Butterfield stated. “I just thought they played better and we didn’t, so good for them. But, we hung around and kind of made our mark. Speaking of mark, Mark Henderson pulled us out.” 

That would be junior Mark Henderson who led Climax Springs with 20 points and whom Butterfield said is improving every day as a point guard. 

“He is a scorer, too, but it is sometimes hard for kids to do both. He had nine steals, too, and that may be light. I’ll have to watch the tape because I just thought he was everywhere tonight,” Butterfield said of the junior. “He just did a super job of handling the basketball, handling the pressure and he pulled out a win for us. He got the guys to go and do what they needed to do and we got a win so we’ll take it.”

Not to say that it was not a team effort, considering Climax Springs was without junior Dylan Dake Tuesday night due to injury. Dake is currently the team’s leading scorer and a key cog in the Cougar defense. Junior Sam Cline knocked down 13 points, senior Cole Smith added seven, fellow senior Elias Duncan put up five points and Climax Springs brought forth some full-court pressure defensively that forced 19 Pirate turnovers. 

“They are quick and we kind of played scared out there. They put a lot of pressure on you, they did the last game, too, and we thought we had a decent game plan to handle that pressure and just did not handle it very well,” Macks Creek coach Ron Duggan said. “Then we got more into the mode of worrying about handling the ball than doing something offensively. We struggled to score in the first half and we’ve been averaging about 60 points per game so to hold us in the teens at halftime was a credit to their defense.”

Macks Creek initially built a 15-8 lead after the first quarter, but Climax Springs' defense soon settled in forcing six turnovers in the second quarter and another seven in the third. The Cougars closed out the first half on a 7-0 run to make it 19-18 at the break and a 14-2 run in the third quarter allowed Climax Springs to enjoy its largest lead of the night with an 11-point advantage.

“We finally locked down on defense and actually got to covering,” Cline said of his team’s defensive efforts. “We stopped them a lot more than we did in the first half.” 

The Pirates did not just give in, though. Trailing by as many as nine with just over four minutes remaining, Macks Creek closed the gap to six point multiple times and could just not find a way to close the gap as the Cougars protected their lead with key field goals or free throws in the waning minutes. Climax Springs shot 19-35 from the free throw line to finish at 54 percent as a team. 

“Movement, that is what our coach says,” Cline noted of the key on the offensive end. “He says one of the main things we have to do is move the ball and get open shots.”

It was enough for another win, but Butterfield is hoping to see some improvement on the defensive end. 

“I just said, ‘Let’s be solid.’ I didn’t think we were very solid tonight to be honest with you,” the coach said of his team’s defensive efforts. “They missed some shots and we were solid enough, but that is not going to be good enough down the road.” 

Macks Creek was led by junior Austin Brown’s 10 points while senior Trevor Haines finished with eight, senior Grant English added seven and sophomore Logan Gallamore added five. Duggan said the shooting improved toward the end, but it was just simply too late.

“We just could not match their physicalness,” the coach said. “Had our chances, but did not finish very well. Struggled handling the ball and turning it over a few times late.” 

Macks Creek (6-8) will be back in action on Friday at Pilot Grove (5-8 with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

“We are still young and that is the one thing a lot of people don’t realize. We have three or four sophomores on the court at any given time,” Duggan said of his club that features 14 underclassmen on a roster of 23 players between the varsity and junior varsity. 

“I really think by the time we hit the home stretch the last couple of weeks, we are going to be a lot better team.”

Climax Springs (9-5) hosts Fair Play (5-8) Friday night at 7 p.m. The Cougars will be looking for some revenge against a Hornets team that ended their season in the district championship a season ago. 

“Looking forward to playing them,” Butterfield said, noting his team also needs to get healthier moving forward. “The guys are ready for them and looking forward to getting them, seeing if we can’t get back at them.”

Climax Springs junior Maranda Burke launches a shot between a pair of Macks Creek defenders. Burke put up 11 points for the Cougars.

Quick start helps Climax Springs girls cruise past Macks Creek

Climax Springs was calm and confident on the court at Macks Creek Tuesday night and it helped the Cougars cruise to a 72-19 win over their neighbors down Highway NN. 

After an early 3-3 tie, Climax Springs scored 36 of the next 38 points on the way to a comfortable 45-8 advantage at the half and Climax Springs coach Ron Rhodes was glad to see his players stay sharp. 

“I thought we played pretty well. We had spurts and when you get up by a lot sometimes you don’t focus as much, but I thought these kids really focused tonight and executed really well- especially in the first half,” he said. “They got out and ran and it has been what we’ve been working on so I was really happy with that tonight.” 

Climax Springs put up points in a hurry, but it was the defensive effort that helped make that happen. The Cougars utilized a half court trap to make Macks Creek uncomfortable and it led to 22 total Pirate turnovers on the night. 

“We’ve been working on that a lot the last couple days in practice. It is the first time we’ve really tried to execute that defense in a game and we’ll get better at it,” Rhodes noted. “I was really happy with how we got energized when it was time to play defense. That has been lacking a little bit this year.” 

One team’s ability to execute can be a tough night for the team opposing them and Macks Creek was that team Tuesday night as the Pirates looked for ways to get past a formidable Cougar defense. 

“They are really good,” Macks Creek coach Ron Duggan said of a Climax Springs team that returned nearly all of its players from a district championship appearance a season ago. “We struggle fundamentally, we struggle scoring and we have all year long. We are making little strides, but against a really good team like that you cannot tell. In a couple weeks, we’ll have some teams where we can compete and you might see a few wins.” 

The Pirates were led offensively by senior Bailey Taylor who knocked down nine points while junior Molly Phillips added five points of her own. 

Moving forward, the only way for a 1-11 team to continue making those strides and improvements is to simply keep playing and gain experience. Tuesday night may have been a tough outing for Macks Creek, but Duggan knows it can be a stepping stone for the larger picture.

“When we started practicing I had nobody that could handle the ball well enough to attack the basket. I have several girls out there now that are attacking the basket,” the coach noted. “We are not finishing, but we are at least handling the ball well enough to attack the basket, which is going to carry over to next year. The more they do that, the more they handle the ball under pressure like the and are going hard to the basket, it is going to pay off down the road.

“Is it paying off right now? No, but it will at some point.” 

Up next for the Pirates is a trip to Tuscumbia (9-5) on Thursday at 7 p.m. 

The visitors enjoyed a balanced scoring night offensively and Climax Springs was paced by senior Autumn Wallace’s 29 points to lead all scorers. Junior Jayden Butterfield finished with 21 points, junior Maranda Burke put up 11 and freshman Ava Wolfe added nine points of her own.

“I thought Ava played one of her better games of the year. She stepped up and hit a couple of 3-pointers early and we can’t get her to shoot,” Rhodes said of the young freshman with a smile. “She stepped up and shot the ball for us. If she misses, we’ll get the rebound and put it back in. She just has to get the confidence to step up and shoot. I thought Butterfield shot the ball well, Autumn played her normal game and Burke- all those kids I thought executed really well for us.”

Climax Springs (8-5) remains unbeaten against fellow Class 1 schools and the Cougars have a battle with Fair Play (1-9) scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m. As the Cougars look to build on their resume, Wallace said she is enjoying this journey in her final campaign. 

“I think it is a lot of fun. My team is unbelievable and amazing,” she said. They just do really great and I’m glad to be able to have this team to be with. 

“We work really good together and I think that helps us a lot.”

Moving forward, Rhodes said the key is staying healthy as the Cougars don’t have a deep bench to rely upon. That is why the coach was glad to see players like sophomore Beth Torimino contributing as well after adding two points for the Cougars.

“Beth might have played her best game tonight she has ever played. She comes off the bench and is executing pretty well,” the coach stated. “She is always around the basketball and did real well. 

“We have to stay injury free, get in a little bit better shape as the season goes along and I like our chances in districts. Walnut Grove is not there,” Rhodes added with a smile of the defending Class 1 state champions the Cougars met in the district championship game last season.

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132