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Clearwater rallies past Collegiate

Published Jan. 11 at 11:55 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 12 at 8:23 a.m.

Collegiate knew it wouldn’t have senior point guard Markus Phox on Friday night against visiting Clearwater because of Phox’s previously scheduled football recruiting trip to Princeton.

Judging by how Collegiate handled his absence in a 64-59 loss in which Clearwater senior Johnny Becker scored 25 second-half points, the Spartans have some issues to fix because Phox will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot suffered in Tuesday’s loss at Andale.

“That’s as complete a breakdown as we’ve had in six, seven years,” Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said. “… Just hustle and intensity and focus and concentration. No purpose, no focus offensively, no communication. It was a total breakdown in the second half.”

Not having Phox, a four-year varsity player who will have surgery on Monday, is a definite loss for Collegiate (6-2), which beat Clearwater 68-39 on Dec. 8 at the Cheney tournament.

But Becker deserves credit for Clearwater’s win as he made nine straight shots and scored all 25 of his game-high points in the second half.

“He is a very special player,” Clearwater coach Dustin Clevenger said of Becker. “We rely on him to do a lot. Bring the ball up, play defense. In the first half we had him on (Collegiate senior) Riley Kemmer. Then in the second half, we gave (Becker) some relief defensively and let his offense go.”

Becker had 17 third-quarter points, scoring on a jumper, driving the lane, completing three-point plays and hitting a three-pointer from the left wing for a 43-39 lead with 1:34 to go in the period.

“During halftime, coach told us just settle in and get our minds straight,” Becker said. “We came out and executed.”

Collegiate had a 27-16 lead with 53 seconds remaining in the first half, when Kemmer scored 11 of his team-high 24 points. But Clearwater (5-3) got a spark when Devin Roth hit a buzzer-beating shot to get within 27-20. Clearwater’s Reed VanDeest added his own buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter for a 47-44 lead.

Clearwater’s defense also picked up with the return of Chad Reibenspies, who missed the first half, and the Indians’ last two games, because he missed practice over the holiday break while on a cruise. Reibenspies took over guarding Kemmer, holding the senior to a three-pointer in the third.

Collegiate took a 50-49 lead with 6:27 to go on a three-point play by Kemmer. Becker responded with a driving lay-up and Roth then made a wide-open jumper in the lane after a Collegiate over-and-back turnover.

“I had a feeling we’d come and compete in a hostile environment against a very good team,” said Clevenger, whose team made 15 of 20 second-half shots after making 6 of 20 in the first half. “I’m happy our team came to play.”

For Fiegel, the loss was frustrating most because of the Spartans’ defensive lapses.

“How many did our defense give up in the second half? Forty-four points? OK, we’re used to giving up 44 points in a game,” Fiegel said. “We gave up 44 points in a half. That’s not how we built our reputation here.”

Clearwater128271764
Collegiate189171559

Clearwater – Becker 25, Frickey 4, Roth 11, VanDeest 14, Hall 4, Reibenspies 6. Totals 21 (4) 18-21 64.

Collegiate – Kemmer 24, Christian 4, Mann 6, Behzadopur 6, Root 6, Chugg 4, Copher 2, Holt 5, Adams 2. Totals 20 (3) 16-21 59.