Prep girls basketball: 'Boot camp' has helped Clemons lead Superior to stateSuperior (23-3) faces Milwaukee Riverside (21-4) in a Wisconsin Division 1 girls basketball semifinal at about 8:15 p.m. today at the Resch Center in Green Bay. It's Superior's first state tournament since 1995.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
Jed Carlson knew Abby Clemons was cut from a different cloth than most high school athletes when she would show up for 6 a.m. workouts and flip tractor tires and get punched in the abdomen, and then, at the end of the day, ask what was on tap for the next day’s workout.
“She is not like any other high school kid I’ve seen in my 12 years up here,” said Carlson, the Superior Telegram’s staff photographer, who for the last four years has conducted offseason workouts with members of Superior’s girls basketball team. “Usually when we start off, there are six, seven or eight kids who show up for the first couple workouts. But it’s always ended up that Abby is the last person.”
Included in those workouts are such off-beat exercises as medicine ball chest passes while running around a track, push-ups on those aforementioned tractor tires on the football field and an old boxing regimen of keeping your hands behind your head while getting punched in the stomach.
“A lot of kids hated that but Abby would say, ‘Can we do that again? Can we do that again?’” Carlson recalls. “She knows if she can take a shot (in a game), it’s not going to affect her.”
The pseudo boot camp has paid off for the Superior senior forward, who has played an integral role in the Spartans’ run to their first state tournament since the school’s 1995 debut appearance. Superior (23-3) faces Milwaukee Riverside (21-4) in a Wisconsin Division 1 semifinal at about 8:15 p.m. today at the Resch Center in Green Bay. The winner takes on either Arrowhead or Mukwonago in Saturday night’s title game.
Clemons averages only 5.8 points per game but has been in double figures three times in the stretch drive. She scored 13 points and made four of five 3-point attempts, including the go-ahead shot in the fourth quarter, in a 54-51 win over Oshkosh North in Saturday’s section final.
Her influence can be seen in other aspects such as guarding opponents’ post players and taking charges, all reasons why coach Phil Roe named her a co-captain with junior standouts Jessica Lindstrom and Hailey Kontny.
“She earned that position with her hard work in the offseason and her dedication to the program,” Roe said. “She’s been peaking at the right time, at playoff time. Not only is she scoring some clutch baskets, she’s also taken some huge charges that you won’t see in the box score.”
That fearless attitude can be traced back to early morning workouts with Carlson.
“She’s probably taken a dozen charges in the playoffs,” Carlson said. “That kid would stand in front of a moving train if you let her.”
The 5-7 Clemons, whose grandfather is former Superior boys coach Larry Cole, is usually tasked with the role of defending much taller players in the post. Previously, she’s guarded Esko’s 6-9 Savanna Trapp and Chisago Lakes’ 6-4 Bryanna Fernstrom and now she might be faced with going up against Riverside’s 6-5 senior Breanna Lewis, who averages a double-double and is headed to Kansas State.
When asked, the 6-5 Carlson has played that role during Superior’s practices.
“I always have to block him out, but it helps when we play these taller girls,” Clemons said. “Sometimes I got so frustrated that he’d get in my head, but now I know it’s paid off.”