Lynx don’t want to linger on loss to No. 2 Lions

Games against H-D tonight, No. 7 Gilbert Saturday provide opportunities

Webster City senior Dylan Steen (4) is fouled from behind by Clear Lake’s Kody Kearns (23) on Monday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

WEBSTER CITY — The treacherous weather conditions that blanketed the state and left schools closed earlier this week may have actually worked to the benefit of the Webster City boys’ basketball team.

It gave the players and coaches a moment to take a step back and decompress, something everyone desperately needed following Monday’s soul-crushing last-second 52-51 loss to second-ranked (Class 3A) and North Central Conference leader Clear Lake.

“The day off Tuesday helped because it gave us a day to process everything,” WCHS head coach Marty McKinney said.

There was a lot to digest from that one game, a setback that effectively eliminated even an outside chance at a conference championship. The Lynx (8-5, 5-3 NCC) played their best basketball of the season in stretches, but failed to hang on to a seven-point fourth-quarter lead.

The last minute was particularly tough to absorb. WCHS led by three points with 54 seconds remaining, and then gave up not one, but two offensive rebounds that led to a Lions’ basket.

Webster City’s Carter Neuroth (22) drives around Clear Lake’s Nick Danielson (13) on the baseline during the fourth quarter on Monday in Clear Lake. The Lynx will hit the road tonight to take on Hampton-Dumont and will then host Gilbert on Saturday. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

And then there was the no-call in the waning moments, something that McKinney admitted was discussed a time or two amongst his players.

With less than 10 seconds remaining, Clear Lake guard Drew Enke raced the ball down the floor and drove towards the lane. He passed the ball out to Nick Danielson on the wing just as he crashed into a stationary Drake Doering, a WCHS junior, but no whistle for charging came.

Danielson missed a 3-point attempt, but Carson Toebe was able to fly in for the offensive rebound and hit the game-winner at the buzzer as Doering was on the floor after sliding on his backside past the baseline from the contact.

“There were some discussions about it, that’s for sure,” McKinney said. “But it all comes back to you control what you can control. You can’t leave it in the hands of a call or no call at the end of the game, and if we make a couple of plays on the possession before, maybe it doesn’t matter.”

WCHS finds itself at a crossroads now as it prepares for tonight’s league road game at Hampton-Dumont (2-11, 1-7 NCC). It can let the sting of the loss linger, or it can use the disappointment as fuel going forward.

McKinney says he has a pretty good idea of how his team will respond.

“To be honest, we’ve kind of got a chip on our shoulder right now, which I like,” he said. “We felt like we should have won that game (on Monday), but at the same time we feel like we can play with anybody. Now we have to prove that.

“We came to practice (on Wednesday) and talked about what happened and then had a good practice afterwards. I didn’t see anybody hanging their heads.”

WCHS hammered Hampton-Dumont, 64-31, when the two teams met back on Dec. 14, but McKinney and his players aren’t taking anything for granted against a Bulldogs group that has dropped six straight contests.

“I’ve had some strange things happen in that gym over the years and we know they’re going to give us their best effort,” he said.

It will be a quick turnaround on Saturday when the Lynx will face another stern test at home against seventh-ranked (3A) Gilbert (12-2). The Tigers, who lead the Heart of Iowa Conference, have the top-ranked scoring offense in the class at better than 78 points per game. They like to run and force their opponents to play their style, two things McKinney says WCHS simply cannot let happen.

“Our first focus is on Hampton, but at the same time with the quick comeback, it’s another opportunity,” he said. “I’ve watched Gilbert a couple of times on film and they’re good. They’re athletic, they can shoot the ball and they present some match-up problems for us. But if we can keep it in the low 60s and get them to play our style a little bit, we can put ourselves in position to maybe win at the end.”

The WCHS girls’ team (4-10, 2-7 NCC) will also be in action both days. Hampton-Dumont (6-8, 5-3 NCC) won the first meeting last month, 46-34, but has lost seven of eight games since. Gilbert (11-4) will travel to Webster City ranked No. 11 (4A).