Riverside-Brookfield guard Jalen Clanton is only a sophomore, but you would never guess that by his composure in crunch time.
Clanton wasn’t thinking about the tied score, or the hostile home fans, or the fact that there were only 33 seconds left in the game. He was watching what teammate Daniko Jackson was going to do. Jackson told him to be ready for the pass.
Jackson (nine points) drove to the basket and kicked out to Clanton who was waiting behind the three-point line on the left corner. Clanton (14 points) ignored the Lyons defender charging at him and buried the shot that gave the Bulldogs a 65-62 lead they held on to for a 66-64 win over the Lions.
“I didn’t really have time to be nervous about the shot,” Clanton said. “I was just doing what [Jackson] told me to do. I was just concentrating on knocking down the shot.”
After Clanton’s three, Joe Brunner missed from beyond the arc for Lyons. Jackson was fouled with 11 seconds left, making one of two free-throw attempts before Harrison Niego of Lyons scored a quick layup in transition. Clanton was immediately fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Niego was missed just right on a long-range desperation three in the final second.
“We never give up, no matter what the situation is,” Clanton said.
Lesser teams would have given up following the first-half performance of Niego. The senior guard scored 19 of his 26 points in the first two quarters, including a buzzer-beating three that gave Lyons (8-2) a 39-37 lead going into halftime.
But Riverside-Brookfield showed the resilience commonly found in undefeated teams. Despite Niego’s dominance, the Bulldogs (9-0) turned to their two 6-7 big men, center Mark Smith and forward Sam Johnson, to provide the points to keep the game close. Smith (16 points) had a monster first period, scoring 10 points, and also added two crucial baskets in the final period. Sam Johnson finished with 18 points, most coming in the paint.
“We definitely wanted to establish the low post game early,” Smith said. “It worked and it opened things up for us from the outside as the game progressed.”
Senior Jaquan Phipps (20 points) scored eight points in the fourth quarter and Lyons seemed to steal momentum when his baseline jumper tied the game at 60-60 with 2:29 left to play.
For Clanton, there is no downplaying a win against one of your biggest rivals on their home court.
“This was definitely the biggest win of the season for us so far,” Clanton said.
Connor Niego added eight points for Lyons, while Noah Niego finished with six. Henry Trelenberg chipped in 13 for Riverside-Brookfield.