It showed on Tuesday night, when the senior point guard led Cloudland to a surprisingly easy 60-40 win over North Greene in the District 1-A girls basketball championship.
On the same floor where they won the Johnson City Honda Invitational earlier in the season, the Lady Highlanders (28-5) knocked down nine 3-pointers to win their third district title in the last five years.
Clarke, Cloudland’s senior point guard, had 15 points as she wrapped up tournament MVP honors.
“It is probably my favorite gym, even over Cloudland,” Clarke said. “I love playing in this gym. We know here there is more competitiveness.”
She wasn’t alone in feeling comfortable at Daniel Boone.
Fellow senior Haley Johnson put on an offensive display in the first half, scoring 15 points which included four shots behind the arc.
“If it wasn’t for everyone’s passing and moving the ball quick, that wouldn’t have happened,” Johnson said. “This is our home away from home. There is just a great atmosphere here and this is where we play our best.”
Overall, Cloudland hit seven shots behind the arc in the first half to take a 27-17 halftime lead. It wasn’t just shooting where Cloudland dominated the action. They controlled the boards over the course of the game, outrebounding the Lady Huskies (22-9) by a 24-10 margin.
For Cloudland’s senior players, which also included all-tournament selection Courtney Wilson, it was their 102nd career victory.
“I though Haley made some big threes as a senior,” Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. “She made some big plays and then did a good job when we had to guard them. I thought our defense made some big plays for us, and when you win the rebounding margin, you’ve always got a shot at the game.”
Katelyn Weems paced the Lady Huskies with 15 points, but the Cloudland defensive efforts focused on shutting down North Greene’s lead duo of Mendy McNeese and Lauren Baxter.
McNeese, the Watauga Valley Conference player of the year and an ETSU signee, was held to just four first-half points and nine overall. Baxter, last year’s Region 1 MVP, finished with eight points after being held scoreless in the first half.
“That’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen our team play defense,” Clarke said. “Coach told us we had to take those two out and if we did that, we could win by as much as we wanted to.”