Gael girls take over NCC lead

This time around, the St. Edmond girls basketball team stepped up to the challenge.

Avenging their only setback of the season, the fifth-ranked (Class 2A) Gaels knocked off No. 2 (3A) Clear Lake by a 58-53 final Friday night at the SEHS gym.

With its sixth straight victory, St. Edmond (16-1 overall, 15-1 in the NCC) tied the Lions in the loss column atop the North Central Conference standings. Prior to this season, the Gaels claimed at least a share of the past two league titles.

“It was very important for us to get a big win like this before heading into the tournament,” SEHS head coach Scott Messerly said. “We want to play as many good teams as we can, and we feel like Clear Lake is as good as anyone we’ll see down the line.

“Hopefully, we can keep things going now and end up with at least part of the conference championship. I’d like to believe that was in the back of the girls minds (Friday).”

Juniors Jaci Stumpf and Anna Yung each delivered 18 points for the Gaels, while senior Alli Huss added 14. As a squad, St. Edmond shot an impressive 59.4 percent (19-for-32) from the field.

“It was a great win,” said Stumpf. “All week in practice, we worked on how (Clear Lake) beat us in the first game with their pick and roll.

“We’ve won (the NCC) the past two years, so we had a lot of extra motivation (last night).”

All knotted at 11 entering the second quarter, St. Edmond reeled off a 20-9 run over the next eight minutes to build a double digit advantage at the break. Yung and Huss both netted eight during that pivotal stretch for the green and white.

“I thought the defensive end was probably the difference,” Messerly said. “I know Clear Lake shot the ball really well up there, especially on 3’s (the Lions were 8 of 13 behind the arc in a 66-56 triumph back on Jan. 9), but (Friday) we did a nice job of contesting their shots and not allowing many easy looks.”

Trailing by as many as 12 late in the third, the Lions (14-2, 13-1) used a 17-6 flurry to slice the deficit to a single point on a pair of Bailey Kibsgaard free throws with 2:14 remaining. Unfazed, the Gaels then answered with a mini 4-0 burst behind two clutch Stumpf free throws and a Clare Flattery layup to fend off a late Clear Lake rally.

St. Edmond went 14-for-18 from the charity stripe in the contest, including 11 of 15 in the fourth quarter alone to seal the deal. Stumpf, a 5-foot-4 point guard, was 7-for-9 by herself in crunch time.

“I’ve really been working on my free throw shooting a lot,” said Stumpf. “I definitely think it helped me (last evening).”

Logan Anderson (16), Kibsgaard (14) and Lindsey Loudenberg (11) anchored Clear Lake’s balanced offensive attack. The Lions suffered their only other defeat in their season opener by a 48-39 count to defending 5A state semifinalist and then-No. 5 Mason City.

Following a quick turnaround, the Gaels visit Carroll Kuemper (11-6) tonight. Tip is set for 6 p.m. The Knights were trounced by reigning 4A state runner-up and No. 1 Harlan on Friday, 77-51.