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Clawson High girls hoops winning with young talent

By: Jacob Herbert | Royal Oak Review | Published January 29, 2020

 Clawson High’s Abbey Lodato looks to get around a defender Jan. 21 against Roseville High at home. The Trojans beat the Panthers 48-27 to win their sixth straight game and improve to 9-1 overall at press time.

Clawson High’s Abbey Lodato looks to get around a defender Jan. 21 against Roseville High at home. The Trojans beat the Panthers 48-27 to win their sixth straight game and improve to 9-1 overall at press time.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Senior Justice Biddle guards a Roseville player. Clawson allows an average of 29.5 points per game, which is second best in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division.

Senior Justice Biddle guards a Roseville player. Clawson allows an average of 29.5 points per game, which is second best in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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CLAWSON — The current makeup of the Clawson High girls basketball team consists of four seniors, two juniors and six sophomores.

All six of the current sophomores played together as freshmen last year, and the camaraderie they built is a driving force behind Clawson’s success this season.

At press time, the Trojans were 9-1 overall, 6-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division, and were in the midst of a six-game winning streak.

“They’re all athletes, all six of them,” Clawson coach Kelly Horne said. “A lot of them played varsity soccer and/or varsity volleyball too, so their experience at the varsity level goes beyond basketball. That experience they get from playing against older and bigger kids is second to none. That’s why we are successful.”

All six sophomores on the roster have the ability to contribute on any given night. Renata Carlesimo and Abbey Lodato both run the point and play well together on the court. Charlie Verner and Aliyah Vesper are the shooters; Ava MacNeill is the defensive specialist; and Natalie Champine is one of the more solid post players around.

Horne admitted that when a team is made up of so many young players, having a solid core of upperclassmen is more important than ever. The impact of Clawson’s more experienced leaders has been paramount in tight games the Trojans have been in.

“That’s the difference between winning the close games and losing the close games,” Horne said. “We’ve had a couple close games, and the reason we won those was because Al Verner, Jillian Liford and Justice Biddle stepped up and took control on the court.”

Aside from their depth, the Trojans boast a team with one of the better defenses in the MAC. Clawson allows an average of 29.5 points per game, second best in the Silver behind Madison Heights Lamphere (28.5).

“We pride ourselves on defense,” Horne said. “I tell the girls all the time our offense will come, but we score a ton of points off our defensive pressure. We are the type of team that’s going to pressure you 90 feet for 32 minutes. They’re just tenacious defensively.”

The Clawson graduate said her team plays a lot of man-to-man, and when one of her players gets beat, there’s always somebody else there to help out.

With a defense so dominant, the Trojans offense needs some tightening up if the second half of the season is going to be as successful as the first. Clawson’s ability to turn defense into offense is where the majority of the focus falls, but it’s the half-court sets that the coaching staff is looking to improve.

“We’re constantly throwing sets at them and different plays, just trying to get something that we’re comfortable with,” Horne said. “But our offense comes from our defense, so we don’t play a lot of half-court sets. If we can tighten that up, we’re going to beat the really good teams.”

As far as goals and expectations for the season, the Trojans have one outstanding item to be accomplished. They’re currently in first place in their league, and they hope to be there when the regular season concludes Feb. 27.

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