HCHS girls put aside rough start, top Panthers 61-47

 HARLAN (Dec. 21) -- Going into Monday night’s home clash with Panorama, the Harlan Community girls basketball team had lost two straight games against state-ranked, top 10 opponents.
 And despite falling behind 13-3 vs. the 10th-ranked (3A) Panthers, HCHS wasn’t about to let that slide hit three.
 Sparked by Brecken Van Baale’s three first-quarter treys, the 13th-ranked (4A) Cyclones used a 16-3 run to take their first lead, went to halftime up 30-24 and opened the third quarter with a 12-2 surge.
 Harlan’s 16-point cushion never dipped below nine the rest of the way as it held off the Panthers 61-47 for a quality non-conference win.
 “Last year we went to their place (and) lost a one-possession game,” said HCHS head coach Zach Klaassen. “They didn’t lose much from last year, so it’s a step in the right direction. (We’re) pretty happy.”
 As for the early 10-point deficit and flurry of turnovers against Panorama’s pressure, Klaassen added, “I knew we were going to be okay. It was just a matter of us settling down, and once we settled down we looked pretty good.”
 The pace was frenetic and chaotic as both teams pressed and trapped a majority of the way. The Cyclones turned the ball over 21 times, but won the rebounding battle 38-28 and also outshot the visitors, including 14-of-19 made free throws.
 Klaassen was pleased with the success of a box-and-one defense on Payton Beckman, who entered the game averaging 20 points per game but scored only nine. Her lone three-pointer was buried from well beyond the arc as Van Baale and others took turns shadowing the quick junior guard all over the court.
 The Cyclones (5-2), who shot 41 percent as a team, were led by Macie Leinen’s 13 points and 12 each from Van Baale (4-of-6 threes) and Jocelyn Cheek. Raegen Wicks (8) and Caitlyn Leinen (7) combined for 15 points off the bench and Claire Schmitz added six.
 Cheek and Schmitz were the top rebounders with eight each while Macie Leinen grabbed five offensive boards and seven total. Ashley Hall had six assists and three steals to go along with her three points and Macie Leinen was the top shot blocker with three.

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