BRODHEAD, Wis. - Brodhead and Clinton engaged in a back-and-forth battle that had all the markings of a contest that comes down to the final few possessions Tuesday night.
The Cardinals had a different plan in mind. Trailing 42-39 with 6:43 remaining, the Cardinals went on an 8-0 run, hit their free throws down the stretch and ended up comfortably beating the Cougars 62-51 for their second consecutive Rock Valley Conference victory.
The Cougars fell to 0-2 in RVC play as they struggled with getting any type of flow going offensively.
Brekan Day was huge for the Cardinals, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the second half. Day went 9-for-11 at the charity stripe, and the Cardinals hit 22-of-28 free throws for the game.
Day said the Cardinals improved their execution on both sides of the floor to secure the win.
"We played really hard on defense, especially in that last six minutes," Day said. "Offensively, there were stretches in the first half when we didn't get good shots. This time, we made sure we stayed patient and got good looks at the basket. That was the difference."
The Cardinals really put the screws to Clinton's leading scorer Zach Krause, who scored just four of his 12 points after halftime. Day said limiting the senior was a big emphasis prior to the game.
"We had some scout teams, coaches from the girls side, coming over and giving us a look," Day said. "So we were trying to front him and give weak-side help as much as possible and it worked out well."
Day said the team's success has a lot to do with its off-the-court attributes as well as improved play between the lines.
"We're definitely gaining confidence as a team," Day said. "We're a lot closer of a group than we were in years past. Because of that, when adversity hits, we stay together and fight through it."
Brodhead, who led 27-21 at halftime and was in front for the majority of the game after Clinton broke out to an 11-6 advantage, will face a stern test at Jefferson Friday.
Cardinals coach Nick Jarvis said that with the way the RVC shapes up this season, every game is critical.
"Any win is a big win in this conference," Jarvis said. "Everybody can beat everybody else. I mean, we've got some really tough teams in the conference, but any night you can get a win in conference, you take it.
Parker Johnson added 14 points, including a huge three-pointer that put the Cardinals up 50-42 with 4:35 to play, while Justice Tway had 15 points while also being the primary defender on Krause.
The vibes weren't quite as good on the Clinton side, where players and coaches alike wondered why the team seemed to play with a lack of energy and passion. "I don't have any idea why that would be," Clinton senior Eric Paschke, who led the Cougars with 16 points, said. "We just have to want to win more. It kind of seems like we're complacent with just playing right now."
Clinton coach John Gracyalny was in agreement with Paschke.
"We came out with no energy," Gracyalny said. "The guys just aren't jiving with each other right now. We might have three guys that are flowing well together, but the other two aren't. We just have to figure out what's going on there. Tonight, I think we came in here feeling like we had this one in the bag, just like we did last year when we lost to them. We didn't come out here ready to beat them tonight."
Caleb Gracyalny had 10 points for the Cougars, while Riley Anastasi provided a spark off the bench with six points and several assists.
Clinton will try for their first conference win Friday when they host Big Foot.