When the Malcolm girls’ basketball team traveled to Stromsburg Dec. 14 to play Cross County, they went with some worries. The Cougars opened the season with three straight blowout wins and had a clear height advantage over the Clippers.
“We were definitely concerned about their size,” Malcolm head coach Andy Klepper said. “Watching both teams warm up, I thought we might be in trouble.”
The worries were quickly put to rest as the outsized Clippers used their speed and superior ball handling to hand Cross County a 41-30 loss. The Malcolm defense forced 26 turnovers as the Cougars struggled to get the ball up the court.
“We figured out that handling the ball was not their strength,” Klepper said. “So we put pressure on their guards and got a bunch of steals.”
A pair of juniors – Joslyn Small and Ashlynn Sehi – each had five steals to lead the Clippers who swiped the ball from the Cougars 18 times.
“Joslyn and Ashlynn have both stepped up as leaders,” Klepper said. “We don’t have any seniors, so we’re counting on our juniors to be more vocal and lead by example.
“Those two have accepted that challenge.”
It was a newcomer who led the team in scoring as Alyssa Fortik scored 10 points. The freshman point guard returned to the lineup after sitting out a game due to a leg injury.
“Alyssa is definitely a difference maker for us,” Klepper said. “She sees the floor well, plays with a lot of confidence and doesn’t force things.”
The victory was the second of the week for the Clippers who won their Dec. 10 home opener, 44-17 over Conestoga.
With Fortik out of the lineup, Small took on some additional responsibility and led the way with 14 points on a rough shooting night for Malcolm. The Clippers hit on just 16 of 67 shots from the field. Things were equally challenging at the line as the team went 4-of-15.
“It’s a good thing we played solid defense and crashed the boards hard,” Klepper said. “Our shooting just wasn’t there.”
The tenacious Malcolm defense forced 29 turnovers and recorded 22 steals with Small getting six steals while her twin sister – Jasmine – had seven takeaways.
Malcolm (3-1) is back on the road Tuesday night for a conference battle at Elmwood-Murdock. After opening the season with a pair of losses, the Knights (3-2) picked up three wins last week.
“They have some size with a 6-4 post player and a solid, athletic point guard,” Klepper said. “They will present some challenges for sure.”
The Clippers return home Saturday afternoon to host Raymond Central (0-5) at 2:30 p.m.