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Clearwater girls hold off Circle

Published Dec. 20 at 11:55 p.m. | Last updated Dec. 21 at 8:33 a.m.

Clearwater’s Bryna Vogel kept her team focused on what was most important Friday in its game at Circle — finishing it with a winning record.

The Indians started the game at 2-2, and held on through Circle’s rally to finish with a 46-43 win.

“I didn’t let (Circle get in my head) this time. I just kept telling my teammates that we could do it, and we pulled it out,” Vogel said. “It would have been a different Christmas break, and it’s easier and a lot more pressure off of us going in with winning.”

Vogel scored 13 of Clearwater’s 20 points in the first quarter, to take a 17-point lead over Circle. The Thunderbirds didn’t score until 4:41 remaining in the period, and again 3:26 later, only cashing in on free throws, shooting 0 for 12 from the field.

“We knew we were going to have to contain Vogel, so we were really making sure we had help on her, and weren’t applying as much pressure to everyone else. That was probably a mistake I made in hindsight,” Circle coach Brian Henry said. “We ran into that first quarter where we couldn’t make a shot, and they were making everything. It’s kind of a worst storm scenario.”

Circle held Vogel to only three points and Clearwater to nine in the second quarter, cutting its deficit to 10 by halftime.

Circle’s Katie Frankenbery opened the second half with a three-pointer to spark a 10-0 run that tied the score 29-9. But Vogel started a 10-4 run to end the period after a steal and a layup, followed by a block and another two points from under the basket.

“We just didn’t handle the pressure, and had a lot of unforced turnovers,” Clearwater coach Chuck Reitberger said. “Circle strapped and was able to fight back.”

Circle started the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run, before Clearwater scored only three of four foul shots. The Thunderbirds’ transition started to gain momentum when Talia Highbarger stole the ball and scored on a jumper, cutting Clearwater’s lead to two, followed immediately by another steal from Highbarger.

“We have a lot of intense girls out there. They were getting out in the passing lanes, and we got some steals off of that and we were able to convert into some transition baskets,” Henry said. “It’s going to be our defensive pressure intensity that’s going to get us victories.”

A foul gave Clearwater’s Haley Reibenspies a chance from the free-throw line, where she gave the Indians a three-point lead. Vogel blocked Circle’s next shot, and after Reibenspies missed two more free throws, Vogel secured a final rebound in the last seconds for the win.

“It’s our first league game, so that’s big for us. It would be a completely different Christmas break if you would somehow manage to give that game away. It’s a huge spring board for us,” Reitberger said. “We’d rather grow winning games than giving away games.”

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Clearwater: Vogel 23, Wright 8, Reibenspies 7, Sizemore 8, Bennett 0, Warren 0, Henning 0, Cotham 0.

Circle: Kifer 4, Frankenbery 14, Metzger 8, Highbarger 4, Bruendl 3, Wilson 4, Kirkham 6, Alison Kirkham 0, Jeffries 0.