Seasoned by two previous years as a varsity starter, Orion girls' basketball standoutCassidy Clark has raised her game to an even higher level this season.|
But what really suits the 6-foot-1 senior center is seeing the Chargers raise their level of success as well.
Spurred by Clark's 21.3 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots per game, Orion has gone from 11 wins in 2010-11 to 13 last year to this season's 14-7 record, a mark buoyed by last week's 3-0 run in which this week's Area Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus continued to make her own mark.
Clark put up three straight double-doubles in scoring and rebounding in victories over state-ranked Wethersfield (15 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks, two steals), West Central North rival Rockridge (23 points, 13 boards, eight blocks, two steals) and Mason City Illini Central (28 points, 13 boards, five blocks, five steals).
The first of those wins, a 41-37 decision over Wethersfield, stopped the Lady Geese's 12-game winning streak. The next, a 44-34 victory over Rockridge, enabled the Chargers to even their WCC North mark at 3-3 after back-to-back divisional losses; they have since moved to 4-3 after a recent win over Monmouth-Roseville in which Clark netted 18 points.
"I think our whole team knows how good we can be; it comes to just how much effort and heart we put into it,'' said Clark. "I think those three wins last week are going to give us momentum, to help us reach our peak in the second half of the year and in the postseason.''
Those three wins last week also continued what has been a pattern for the Chargers this season: productive play from their top post threat, who has been getting the lion's share of the touches this winter after putting up 16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks per game in '11-12.
"Yeah, we try and get her a touch just about every time if we get that chance,'' said Orion coach John McBride. "Cassidy is definitely a team player and a team leader, and the other kids try to get her involved as much as they can, which says a lot for them.''
Clark looks at being the offensive focal point as a plus, as much for her teammates as for herself.
"Some people will work even harder to shut me down, but that just gives my teammates the opportunity to score more themselves,'' she said. "Our guards can step it up, or our other post player, Katie Garrity, will step up and put some points down. We've become more of a well-rounded team, which is great.
"After we brought two sophomores up (Abby DeBaillie and Katie Conway), it took awhile for all of us to get to know each other. But now we're all aware of what the other can do, and those two are playing big roles now.''
Being one of four seniors on the roster alongside forwards Garrity and Morgan Dahl and guard Abby Taets, Clark can't believe the time that has passed by since she made her varsity debut as a freshman, playing in seven late-seasongames and scoring 42 points.
"I can't believe it's my senior year already,'' she said. "It's sad, but I've got to make the best of it.''
One way she wants to make her final year her best is to help lead the Chargers back to postseason glory. Orion's last girls' roundball regional crown came in 2009, when Clark was in 8th grade.
The fact Clark and several of her teammates were members of the Charger volleyball team that lost in the Class 2A sectional finals to eventual third-place state finisher Riverdale only adds a little extra motivation.
"For a lot of us, that was our first regional (volleyball) title, and we'd never felt that way before,'' she said. "It was a great atmosphere and feeling, and we want to go there again. We have to put in the time and the work, but we want it a lot, and I think we can do it.''
AREA PACESETTER CASSIDY CLARK
Favorite food: Ice cream
Favorite movie: "Tangled"
Favorite TV show: "One Tree Hill"
Favorite music: One Direction
Favorite sport: Basketball
Favorite athlete: Dwight Howard
Pre-game ritual: ``We always do a dance together before we take the floor. Last Saturday, we were going out for warm-ups when we realized we'd forgotten to do our dance, so we had to sprint back to the locker room to get our dance in. We were a little bit late for warm-ups.''
Spare time: ``I like hanging out with my friends and family, and playing the piano.''
Parents: Dan and Sandi Clark, Coal Valley
IN THE RUNNING:
Elisha McCreary, Ridgewood: Netted 35 points in wins over Annawan and Sherrard as the 9-7 Spartans stretched their winning streak to three games.
Mark Breedlove, Kewanee: Wrestling on his home mat, Breedlove captured the 138-pound Kewanee Invitational championship.
Rachel Cobert and Laykin Miner, Erie: Cobert averaged just over 12 rebounds in three wins last week and Miner averaged nearly 10 points a game to help the 16-5 Cardinals run their winning streak to seven games.
Dalton Nuding and Donovan Oliver, Kewanee: The duo combined to score 50 points in a pair of Three Rivers Conference wins that kept the Boilermakers unbeaten and in first place.
Celina VanHyfte, Annawan: Netted 55 points and snared nearly 15 rebounds in Lincoln Trail Conference wins over Stark County and Mercer County that put the Bravettes in sole possession of first place.
Jared Richmond, Riverdale: Cut loose for 25 points and added three assists in the Rams' 78-44 win over Prophetstown, keeping them in the thick of the Three Rivers boys' basketball race.
Rock island, IL Details
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