PIERCE — The play of the game was designed around Clarkson/Leigh's leading scorer making a play. The play she made was giving up the ball.
Chloe Hanel found a wide-open Baylee Settje with time running out, and she drained the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds left to lift Class C No. 7 Clarkson/Leigh past No. 8 Pierce 37-34 in a thrilling nonconference girls basketball game Tuesday night.
"That was wild," Clarkson/Leigh girls coach Matt Murren said.
In the boys game, Class C No. 4 Pierce — the recent Mid-State Conference champion — scored the first 10 points in a 49-25 win.
"I challenged the kids after the conference finals on Saturday that we play at that level the entire season," Pierce boys coach Mike Emory said. "When you get up fairly decently, it's pretty easy to let up on some things, but I thought that we did compete for four quarters."
In the girls game, it was the right decision for Hanel to pass with the game on the line.
The 5-foot-11 junior, who averaged 19.2 points per game on the season, was held to just five by the Bluejays. That forced someone else to step up.
On Tuesday night, those players were sophomore twins Brynn and Baylee Settje, who responded with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
"You want to talk about some big shots, Baylee Settje hit one, Brynn Settje hit some," Murren said. "The Settje twins, they played fantastic tonight."
Pierce, which never led until almost the middle of the fourth quarter, was led by senior Morgan Moeller's 13 points, while sophomore Skylar Scholting chipped in 10.
Clarkson/Leigh never trailed until Ava Knox connected on a driving layup that led to a conventional 3-point play with 4:18 to play for a 27-26 Pierce lead. Skylar Scholting hit 1 of 2 free throws almost a minute later to keep it tied at 28.
The Patriots seemed to had finally taken the lead for good when Brynn Settje drained a corner 3 off a Hanel assist with 2:35 to play.
Instead, Scholting snuck in a baseline drive to the hoop off an inbounds play with 1:20 left, and then Pierce fouled three times in succession to put Clarkson/Leigh into the bonus.
Jessica Hoffman answered the challenge with both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:03 to play. With 41.6 seconds left, Morgan Moeller was fouled and hit both ends of her 1-and-1 opportunity to make it 33-32.
Hanel followed with the front end of a 1-and-1 less than a second later, but Scholting was fouled in the lane with 23.7 seconds left and coolly hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to tie the game at 34.
"We dug ourselves a hole, but the kids kept going in the second half," Pierce coach Darren Sindelar said. "One shot started to fall, another shot started to fall, we got a couple of stops, and the kids clawed their way back into it."
Clarkson/Leigh then burned its final timeout with 12.9 seconds left to set up the final play.
Murren said Hanel rejected the idea of a teammate setting a screen for her. After she received the inbounds pass, Hanel drove the lane, but a second defender crashed into the paint.
That freed up Baylee Settje in the far baseline corner, and her 3-point shot hit nothing but net.
Pierce then called a timeout with 3.6 seconds to play to try to set up its own last-second attempt, but a running shot from near 3-point range was off the mark.
"We knew we had to make a play because we only had a certain amount of time left," Baylee Settje said. "We were going to run a specific play that we had practiced in practice. But it ended up going my way, and I had to shoot it with confidence."
It was a stark contrast to the first half, when both teams' tough defenses led to the offenses combining to shoot just 7 of 44, or 15.9%, from the field. The teams combined for 10 points in the first quarter and 22 in the first half.
"The key coming into the game was to embrace the physicality, and I thought the kids did a great job of attacking the pressure hard," Murren said. "I mean, Pierce is so good at defense that it becomes incredibly difficult. The kids did a great job of continuing to attack."
Pierce went nearly 10 minutes without a made field goal between the second and third quarters, but its defense allowed it to escape that drought trailing just 18-9 with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter.
"In the first half, we played really, really well defensive-wise," Sindelar said. "Anytime you can hold a team to 15 in the first half, you're doing some things right. We just couldn't get the ball to fall in the first half. We had good shots. They were there. We just missed a few layups and some open outside shots."
IN THE BOYS game, Pierce hit four of its first five shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, to force a timeout less than three minutes into Tuesday's contest. It was never closer than a six-point game after that opening outburst.
"That's what we did Saturday night in the (Mid-State Conference) championship game, too," Emory said. "It's fun to play from ahead. The kids are a little bit more relaxed."
Deon Watts started things with a 3-pointer, and then Abram Scholting assisted Ben Brahmer on back-to-back possessions before a Watts drive to the basket made it 10-0 with 5:01 left in the first quarter. Brahmer finished with a game-high 17 points, while Scholting tacked on 16.
After the Bluejays boosted their opening start to 14-2, the Patriots scored on three straight possessions — a basket from Drew Beeson, a Christian Hamernik jumper following a Kyle Kasik steal and Ryan Brichacek feeding Mason Whitmore to put the Patriots within 14-8 with 1:15 left in the first quarter.
Brahmer drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to begin a 9-0 run for Pierce to lead 22-8 just 3½ minutes into the second quarter, and the lead swelled to 32-16 after a Jackson Wachholtz 3-pointer and a Colby Anderson free throw in the waning seconds of the half.
"They played really good defense, and you can't get behind them. If you get behind them, you have to fight, scratch and claw," Clarkson/Leigh boys coach Jeff Bachman said. "Our guys played hard and did some good things ... but they're a darned good team."
Clarkson/Leigh 6 9 7 15 — 37
Pierce 4 3 12 15 — 34
CLARKSON/LEIGH (17-5): Cadence Indra 0 1-2 1, Chloe Hanel 1 3-6 5, Ava Kasik 0 0-0 0, Jessica Hoffman 0 3-4 3, Korbee Wendt 2 0-1 4, Gracie Eisenmann 0 0-0 0, Brynn Settje 5 2-3 14, Baylee Settje 4 0-0 10. Totals: 12 9-16 37.
PIERCE (14-8): Hadley Wragge 1 1-2 3, Aubrey Hanson 0 0-0 0, Emily Endorf 0 0-0 0, Abbie Cone 1 0-0 2, Madelyn Hanson 0 0-0 0, Ava Knox 2 1-1 6, Morgan Moeller 4 4-4 13, Skylar Scholting 2 6-9 10. Totals: 10 12-16 34.
Clarkson/Leigh 8 8 6 3 — 25
Pierce 17 15 10 7 — 49
CLARKSON/LEIGH (12-8): Mason Whitmore 1 0-0 2, Dalton Zulkoski 1 0-0 3, Kyle Kasik 3 0-2 6, Ryan Brichacek 1 0-0 2, Drew Beeson 3 0-0 6, Trey Steffensmeier 2 0-1 2, Kyle Holmberg 0 0-0 0, Korbin Lemburg 0 0-0 0, Christian Hamernik 2 0-0 4. Totals: 13 0-3 25.
PIERCE (13-6): Addison Croghan 1 0-2 2, Jackson Wachholtz 1 0-0 3, Colby Anderson 0 1-2 1, Ben Brahmer 6 2-2 17, Deon Watts 2 0-0 5, Champion White 0 0-2 0, Travis Emory 1 0-0 3, Abram Scholting 4 7-8 16, Keaton Frazier 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 10-16 49.