Two more games meant two more close loses for the Cleveland Clipper boys as they fell 57-51 to host St. Clair on Thursday and then to Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 84-80 during the Bethany tournament on Saturday.
Both games were closer than the score would indicate.
Going into the Bethany tournament, Ben Holden needed 3 points to surpass a career 1,000. He picked up his first two on the Clippers’ first basket. Eric Rohlfing scored inside, and then Holden’s 3 just across the top of the key tied the game at 7.
As a member of the Clipper 1,000-point Club, Holden joins Austin Plonsky (2018), Carter Kopet (2018), Jaiden Zishka (2017), Tom Kraft (2013), Matt Miller (2008), the late Robert “Buck” Wendelschafer (1963) and Bill Matejcek (1960).
“It’s surreal to get it,” Holden said. “I’m honored to be a part of those guys.”
But as the Clippers were off the mark, the Knights, efficient offensively and taking advantage of the steal, scored inside and outside to go up 45-27.
Coach Dan Fredrickson changed up the defensive scheme several times, but the Knights adjusted.”
“They’re a tough team to guard with their spacing and their ability to drive in the middle of our zone and kick out of that. We struggled with some rotations.”
Foreshadowing the second half though, the Clippers were strong after that with a Rohlfing 3 from the corner and later a layup as well as inside scores from Holden. Cleveland went into the locker room only down by 47-38.
Fredrickson found a defense formation that worked, and that helped, he said.
“It’s something we should have went to sooner. Had we done that, I think we come away with a victory.”
Holden picked up his fourth foul a third of the way into the second half but stayed in the game. Rohlfing had four fouls by then as well, but the two kept pounding the ball inside.
While they missed a few opportunities down the stretch, Rohlfing’s free throw with 40 seconds left pulled the Clippers within 80-77.
“A great job by Ben and Eric,” Fredrickson said. “We just have to understand patience on offense and just how destructive those guys are inside when they get catches. But our fouls just add up. They take players off the floor. Nothing breaks a run when like sending the other team to the free throw line, and we have a habit of doing that.”
With Rohlfing fouling out at the 19.6 mark, the Knights hit a pair of freebies, but Holden sunk a basket from behind the arc with just under 6 seconds remaining. The Clippers tried desperately to stop the inbounds, but the Knights threw the ball over the top of all of them for an easy layup to tag and bag the victory.
“The first half we just didn’t come to play,” Holden said. “The second half, we were just up and down in the half. If we can piece two halves together, I think we can beat anyone. I can’t think of someone who would just run us out of the gym if we didn’t play our best. We’ve just got to finish.”
The game was played with a 35-second shot clock. Rohlfing had 33 points. Adding 28 to his career milestone, Holden had 31.
At St. Clair, the Clippers were down 25-22 at the break, but a Holden jumper and then a hook shot on the baseline made for a 29-29 tie. After Luke Mueller’s reverse layup, it was tied again, 44-44 with 5 minutes left, but the Clippers lost an opportunity when a long, down-court pass flew out of bounds.
After Isaac Mueller fouled out, the Cyclones hit both of their free shots to go up by a basket, but Rohlfing’s jumper tied the game at 48. The Cyclones hit the back end of a pair of foul shots, but Rohlfing drove for a basket to put the Clippers up by a point, 50-49.
Not happy trailing, St. Clair responded right away with a 3, but Rohlfing made a foul shot to pull the Clippers within a point. With 33 seconds left, the Cyclones also sunk a foul shot, and after a Clipper in-bounds, they came up with a big block and steal and made the two ensuing foul shots with less than 13 seconds left. Another Cyclone steal and score with a few seconds remaining put the final additions on the win.
Fredrickson said the Clippers are getting closer to the finish line but have to run through. Staying out of foul trouble will be part of that.
“The boys played so hard tonight. To see them diving on the floor and holding these guys where they did, it was an amazing effort. The problem for us we sent them to the free throw line a lot, and then we have guys playing tentative because they have four fouls. We have to realize no block in the world, no steal is worth our guys being on the bench at the end of the game.”
At the half, it looked like Holden would easily reach his career milestone, but he was shut out after five and a half minutes into the second half. Still, he ended the night with 21 points. Rohlfing had 17 points.
St. Clair has a 15-6 record and is 7-2 in the Valley Conference.
The Clippers host Mankato Loyola—one of five teams they have beaten this year—in the first round of the Valley Conference Showcase on Monday.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 47 37 84
Cleveland 38 42 80
Cleveland 80 (Ben Holden 31, Levi Baker 7, Eric Rohlfing 33, Luke Mueller 2, Isaac Mueller 5, Carter Dylla 2)
Rebounds 29 (Holden 14, Isaac Mueller 5, Rohlfing 6, Baker 2, Luke Mueller 1, Dylla 1)
Assists 18 (Isaac Mueller 4, Rohlfing 5, Baker 2, Luke Mueller 1, Holden 3, Dylla 1, Elijah Sullivan 2)
Steals 4 (Rohlfing 2, Baker 1, Dylla 1)
Blocks 3 (Holden 1, Baker 2)
2FG 26-39 (66%)
3FG 6-15 (40%) (Rohlfing 2, Holden 2, Isaac Mueller 1, Baker 1)
FT 10-15 (67%)
St. Clair 25 32 57
Cleveland 22 29 51
Cleveland 51 (Ben Holden 21, Levi Baker 4, Eric Rohlfing 17, Luke Mueller 2, Jackson Meyer 5, Elijah Sullivan 2)
Rebounds 27 (Holden 14, Isaac Mueller 1, Rohlfing 7, Baker 2, Luke Mueller 2, Jackson Meyer 1)
Assists 15 (Isaac Mueller 4, Rohlfing 2, Baker 2, Luke Mueller 4, Holden 3)
Steals 12 (Isaac Mueller 2, Rohlfing 5, Baker 3, Holden 1, Sullivan 1)
Blocks 2 (Holden 1, Rohlfing 1)
2FG 18-40 (45%)
3FG 2-12 (17%) (Rohlfing 1, Meyer 1)
FT 9-11 (82%)