Ry-three Clevenger: Lady Z sharpshooter scores 20 in win over Northwestern
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
High school basketball can be physical, and case in point is the small mouse Rochester junior shooting guard Rylee Clevenger sports above her left eye that she suffered against North Judson Thursday.
She followed it with seven points in a turnover-marred loss to Caston two days later.
Now a graduate of the school of hard knocks, Clevenger lit up visiting Northwestern for six 3-pointers and a game and career-high 20 points as the Lady Zs cruised to a 40-20 win over visiting Northwestern at the RHS gym Wednesday.
Rochester improved to 1-2. Northwestern fell to 0-3.
Rochester had been 0-3 against Northwestern with the three losses being by an average of 24 points per game since Northwestern was added to the schedule in 2020.
“She puts a ton of pressure on herself,” Rochester coach Joel Burrus said. “She’s a perfectionist. She’s a high academic kid. You watch her. You watch these kids out here. Her and McCarter, I’ve said it a lot of times: They’re basketball junkies. I mean, they care so much.”
Northwestern had cut what had been a nine-point deficit down to 16-14 in the third quarter on a Halie Koetter 3-pointer, but Clevenger nailed two treys – the first off an Aubrey Wilson drive-and-kick and the second on an inbounds play from the right wing – and Ella McCarter hit a 3 from the right wing off another Wilson assist to get the lead to 11.
Rochester had worked extensively at practice on their offense against Northwestern’s various zone defenses. Clevenger also said she put in extra work on her 3-point shot since the Caston game.
“I thought all of them were open,” Clevenger said. “I felt very confident taking all of them.”
Told that Burrus called her a perfectionist, Clevenger agreed.
“I think it’s a good thing because you want everything in your mechanics of shooting to just be the best they can be so you can continue getting good reps,” Clevenger said.
Northwestern would get back within 25-18 after a Lexi Hale layup on fast break after a Rochester turnover with 3:20 left in the third quarter, but the Lady Zs would hold Northwestern scoreless for the next 7:40. Rochester had allowed 106 total points in their first two games against North Judson and Caston. They never allowed more than 103 points in back-to-back games last year in Burrus’ first season as coach.
But this time, they pitched a defensive gem. The 20 points allowed were the second fewest in the Burrus era, surpassed only by the 19 allowed to Winamac last November, and they forced more turnovers (21) than they allowed points.
“We’ve been working the shell difference like crazy,” Burrus said. “What they’ve taken from the Caston game into practice impresses me. You’re looking at these freshmen out there, and we turn it over 31 times against Caston, and we know Caston is no cupcake, but man, you saw a lot of the things that we talked about in the postgame at Caston, pregame tonight, film room the past two days. I’ve been telling these freshmen you’ve got to be a student of the game… and they’re learning how to do that.”
Meanwhile, McCarter fed Audrey Bolinger for a bunny with a crosslane pass, and Brailyn Hunter drilled a 3 to push the lead back to 30-18 after three quarters.
Clevenger and Wilson hit treys sandwiched around a McCarter assist to Field for a layup to start the fourth quarter.
“Now we’ve got to get Ella going,” Burrus said. “But I thought even though Ella didn’t necessarily get a lot done like she would have wanted to offensively tonight, I thought she was great defensively, and man, did she have some big rebounds down there. Late third quarter, early fourth quarter, I saw her breaking through that wall saying, ‘You know what? It may not be going great for me offensively, but I’ve got to help us get stops.”
The win might be a sign that the team is getting closer despite having only seven players. The win came one night after a team dinner.
“I think we have a very good, cohesive group of seven people,” Clevenger said. “It’s not where people are on their own. We are all just one team, and we know what we have to get done.”
Rochester 40, Northwestern 20
NORTHWESTERN (20) (0-3)
Halie Koetter 2 2-2 8, Anna Bishir 2 0-0 4, Tessa Ortman 1 0-0 2, Lexi Hale 2 0-0 4, Berkeley Wray 1 0-2 2, Bella Newell 0 0-0 0, Hannah Eller 0 0-0 0, Makenna Adams 0 0-0 0, Izzy Arrick 0 0-0 0, Savanah Lipinski 0 0-0 0, Tessa Davenport 0 0-0 0, Haley Riker 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 8 2-4 20
ROCHESTER (40) (1-2)
Aubrey Wilson 2 0-2 5, Rylee Clevenger 7 0-0 20, Ella McCarter 2 0-0 5, Jadyn Field 2 1-4 5, Audrey Bolinger 1 0-0 2, Brailyn Hunter 1 0-0 3, Mia Howdeshell 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 15 1-6 40
Three-point field goals:
Northwestern 2 (Koetter 2),
Rochester 9 (Clevenger 6, McCarter, Wilson, Hunter)
Total fouls: Northwestern 10, Rochester 11
Turnovers: Northwestern 21, Rochester 12
Score by quarters
Northwestern 6 3 9 2 – 20
Rochester 13 3 14 10 – 40