Girls basketball: Down 12, Sophia Klacik, Sycamore storm past Neuqua Valley

The Spartans heat up in third quarter thanks to three 3s by Klacik

Neuqua Valley's Nalia Clifford, left, battles for the ball against Sycamore's Monroe McGhee during the first quarter on Wednesday Nov. 29, 2023, held at Sycamore High School.

SYCAMORE – Sophia Klacik missed her first five 3-pointers as Sycamore was struggling early, trailing Neuqua Valley by 12 in the first quarter.

But Klacik started draining 3s, one of which gave the Spartans their first lead of the game and the last of which put them ahead nine in a 59-54 win over the Wildcats on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a big milestone,” Klacik said. “I’ve had a lot of trouble with confidence, and I think just keeping it up and having the support to keep it going really helps.”

Sycamore (4-1) was down 19-7 to the Wildcats (2-3) with 2:14 left in the first quarter. Klacik made her first 3 of the game in the second quarter, as Sycamore trimmed the lead to 32-27 at the break.

The Spartans exploded in the third quarter, with Monroe McGhee scoring the first five points of the half to tie it up. Then the Spartans’ transition game began finding Klacik wide open.

Her 3 with 4:44 left in the third gave the Spartans a 35-32 lead. Caitlin Washington answered with a bucket, part of her game-high 23-point performance. But McGhee got a steal and a layup, then got a rebound and fed ahead to Klacik for a 3.

On the next possession, Lexi Carlsen got a board and fed it up to an open Klacik, who again connected as Sycamore went up 43-34 with 2:06 left.

“It’s a testament to these girls, they never quit. There’s no give-up in them,” Sycamore coach Adam Wickness said. “Things were looking a little bleak there, that six minutes in the first quarter we didn’t look good. But perseverance came along.”

Neuqua Valley got it back to within three on a 3-pointer by Washington with 2:51 left, but McGhee drained a 3-pointer 11 seconds later for a 54-48 Sycamore lead, and Neuqua Valley never got closer than four the rest of the way.

“Once we got to that point, we needed to just reset. Flush it,” Klacik said. “We realized we just have to stack ‘em. That’s our motto. Just keep stacking stops.”

After missing her first five 3-pointers, Klacik made four of her last five attempts. She finished with 14 points.

Wickness said Klacik spends a lot of time on shooting, which helps her overcome any cold stretches and make sure she hits.

“I told her at halftime, ‘Soph, your next shot is going in,’” Wickness said. “Erase everything that happened in the first half. Then boom, she goes off and hits three in a row, something like that. It’s awesome to see them have that perseverance and keep that belief alive.”

Washington also had three steals for the Wildcats. Kylee Norkus had 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals while Zoe Navarro had 12 points. Post Michayla Stone managed just two points being defended mostly by Kate Elsner but did grab eight rebounds.

Carlsen led the Spartans with 17 points, six assists and five rebounds. McGhee had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

The Neuqua Valley trap was very effective early. The Wildcats’ first seven points came from Sycamore turnovers, with the Spartans turning it over five times in the first quarter and 16 times in the game.

But once the Wildcats stopped draining shots at a high rate, the Sycamore transition kicked into gear, leaving Klacik and McGhee open for 3s. McGhee missed her first two 3-point attempts but made her last three.

“We run a drill that the girls hate every single day called New Mexico shooting, where it’s just sprinting up and down the floor, getting to your spots and making sure you’re ready to catch and shoot,” Wickness said. “They hate it, they complain about it, but it pays off in games like this.”

Does Klacik really hate them?

“A little bit,” she said. “It gets to be a lot sometimes.”

But did it pay off Wednesday?

“Yes, absolutely.”

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