Cagers look ahead to next winter after district loss

By Wendi Reardon Price
Clarkston News Sports Writer
With less than 13 seconds to go in the game, freshman Elli Robak’s three-point shot hit it’s mark and put the Wolves just two points behind Lake Orion in the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball District 6 Final.
After Lake Orion went 0-for-2 on the free throw line, junior Wolf Emily Valencia made a long throw with a second to go to for one final attempt for Clarkston to score.
The throw didn’t hit it’s mark and the game ended with Lake Orion winning their second consecutive district title, 54-52.
“I wish we wouldn’t have gotten behind because we could have had a much better shot of finishing,” said Clarkston Girls Varsity Basketball Head Coach Aaron Goodnough. “We got shot out of the game. We kept trying to get out there. Our defensive effort we have been trying to stoke all year showed itself. When that happened we just got shot out of the game.”
He didn’t help Lake Orion went 13-for-19 in 3-pointers. The Dragons had six in the first quarter, which ended in a 18-18 tie after senior Wolf Ava Hernandez scored on a field goal with nine seconds left on the clock. The Dragons hit three more in the third quarter with two part of a 13-point run, helping them end the quarter leading 48-43.

Emily Valencia reaches up to score for the Wolves in the second half of their game against Lake Orion. Photo: Larry Wright

“If they missed two or three, the result goes the other direction,” Goodnough said. “The fact remains we never got out to guard them and it was just the same issues we have had all year – the defensive effort all the way around.
“Other than that, I was happy,” he added. “We had a tough schedule and we were young. We were learning to play a completely different way. It started to click there at the end. We thought we had a very good shot there against Lake Orion. They had the better record but we had an incredibly hard schedule. We knew we would be right in the game. It was exactly what it was. With this young team we still challenged them to the end. I got your full effort and you have nothing to hang your heads about.”
Robak led with 17 points. Senior Keira Tolmie scored 13 points and sophomore Elia Morgner had 11 points.
The Wolves won the district semifinal game against Waterford Mott last Wednesday, 59-25.
Robak opened the scoring with a 3-pointer. Mott was next with two points followed by a basket from Valencia off a pass from Tolmie. Mott scored one more basket, which would be their last as the Wolves went on a 9-point run which included a 3-pointer from Valencia. The Wolves finished the first quarter with a 14-4 lead.
The momentum carried into the next quarter as the Wolves held Mott to three points and finished the half with a 29-7 lead.
Tolmie led with 11 points. Robak had nine points. Valencia and sophomore Keira Zorski each scored six points.
Clarkston finished the season 14-11 overall and 5-1 OAA Red for second place in the league.
“Overall I am happy,” Goodnough said about the season. “I knew the schedule I threw at them was difficult, and I am going to continue to do it. We had our bumps and bruises early. I have already forewarned my girls for next year – get used to this schedule. Now they are starting to be on the same page because it is starting to pay dividends at the end of the year.”
The Wolves have a lot of underclassmen returning next year plus a lot of players moving up from the JV team, who finished the season as OAA league champions.
Goodnough shared the loss to Lake Orion in the district final helps the returners.
“When Lake Orion was celebrating their district victory, I looked at them and said we are going to be right back here next year guaranteed,” he said. “It should hurt. I don’t want to rub it in, but next year it will make it that much sweeter. We hit the ground running right away next year. We have girls who are going to contribute right away. We have a JV team that was loaded this year and loaded with the kind of personnel we can use even if it’s not scoring. It’s going to be great. We have a nice core coming back. We are definitely headed in the right direction.”
The night closed the high school basketball careers for five seniors – Hernandez, Tolmie, Eleonora Spano, Anna Thomas and Mia Zorski.
“I really wish Mia and Anna had their chance to play this year,” Goodnough said, adding they both had injuries. “Anna was just kind of a unicorn in girls basketball in high school. Girls don’t just play freshman year, play JV, make varsity. Mia just needs work and time, and she lost that time this year. She will get that opportunity in college.”
Hernandez continues her academic and athletic career at Madonna University.
“Ava has done everything in Clarkston from being quarterback in boys football teams to scoring seven touchdowns on powder puff. She is just a great all around athlete,” Goodnough said. “Right before senior night she made her decision. She is going to play at the next level and that’s great.”
Tolmie continues her academic and athletic career at Central Michigan University playing softball.
“Keira just does so much for our team behind the scenes,” Goodnough said. “She designed the senior program. She is my star at Horizon Hoops on Saturdays. She does so much. Then, you think about it’s her second sport, and she still gives us her all. I have worked around her schedule so she can hit on Sundays. I am happy to do it because she gives us so much of her time.”
Spano, a foreign exchange student from Italy, joined the team this season while
“Elle didn’t play a ton, but she showed up to every practice, worked as hard as she possibly could,” Goodnough said. “She got better. She had a great time. It’s tough – these girls have been playing together since second and third grade. She still managed to get involved with everyone and fit in. They loved her. She was a nice addition. We were glad to have her.
“There will be a loss for sure but they led by example and the girls really picked up on that. They definitely learned by watching them.”

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