CLINTON, Wis. - After another winnable game spun wildly out of control, members of the Clinton boys basketball team could merely shake their collective heads in disbelief.
Still-shell shocked after a 62-44 defeat to visiting Jefferson, the Cougars couldn't come up with a suitable explanation as to why, when seemingly in control of the game leading 29-24 in the second half, they would proceed to allow a 24-2 run that put the game out of reach for the Eagles.
There were short-term problems ("We didn't practice yesterday, and I think that threw us off a little bit," Zach Krause said.). There were long-term problems ("I just think we forgot how to have fun out there," Eric Paschke said.") One thing there was a shortage of, to be sure, were definitive answers when ti comes to the issues the Cougars, now 5-13 overall and 3-11 in Rock Valley Conference play, are suffering from.
"I'm kind of at a loss for words," Clinton guard Caleb Gracyalny said. "It has to do with every single one of us. I don' know what it is. It seems like we are all really tired, even before the game starts. This was our worst game in a long time. We just have to hope to keep progressing until our first playoff game. We will have a team meeting tomorrow to try and figure this out."
The Cougars overcame a 7-0 deficit to begin the game to take a 28-25 halftime lead.
The second half began positively enough, with the Cougars extending to a five-point advantage before the Eagles took complete command of the contest.
Sparked by three straight 3-pointers by James Monogue, who entered the game averaging 6.6 points per game but finished with 24 Tuesday night. The barrage of Monogue triples left the Cougars down (39-31) but hardly out with 10:45 remaining in the game.
However, the Eagles would proceed to score the next nine points, putting the lead at an insurmountable 48-31 with eight minutes to play.
"What started it all was three straight turnovers," Clinton coach John Gracyalny said. "The second half of this game was the worst we've played in a really long time. Really since Christmas, we've played well in every game. For whatever reason, we didn't play well tonight. Once we got into our funk, we couldn't get out of it because the ball wasn't going into the basket."
Krause, who came into the game needing 20 points to reach 1,000 in his three-year varsity career, ended the game with 13 to lead the Cougars while Tyler Halsted finished with eight.
The challenge for the Cougars hardly gets easier as they travel to rival Beloit Turner Friday. The Trojans, 12-6 and coming off a disappointing performance of their own in a tight win over 3-15 Big Foot Friday, will no doubt be looking to make a statement.
"If we play like we did tonight in the second half against Turner, it's going to be brutal," Caleb Gracyalny said. "I think we'll bounce back. We need a good couple days of practice. The environment at Turner is always really good, and hopefully that brings out the best in us."