HUMPHREY — Early on, it was Clearwater-Orchard hitting the big shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Gage Clifton for a 20-15 lead with just over six minutes left in the first half.

But once Class D-2 No. 6 Humphrey St. Francis got going, there was no stopping the Flyers.

St. Francis scored 16 of the first half's final 18 points, and every time the Cyclones closed to within two possessions, the Flyers had an answer on their way to a 65-47 triumph Thursday night.

“Like good teams, they find ways to come back at us,” Clearwater-Orchard coach Jim Schutt said. “I think for our kids, what I want to come out of it for them is that we're able to play in what I consider these big games against big opponents. … I told the kids that this is why you play. You want to play these types of teams and compete with the upper level. You don't just be satisfied with being good; you want to take it to another level.”

The most emphatic answer came late in the third quarter, when Trevor Pfeifer dunked on a breakaway with 25 seconds left to punctuate five points in 10 seconds for a 47-35 lead. As if that wasn't enough, St. Francis scored nine-straight points in 1:10 midway through the fourth quarter to take a 59-42 advantage — which was its largest lead of the night until a pair of Jarrett Weidner free throws with 57.9 seconds left for the final margin of victory.

“I think some of it was our defense,” St. Francis coach Eric Kessler said. “We got some run outs, and Trevor got that dunk and another layup, so that got things going. Then we were able to move the ball and we got a couple of 3s.

“I really think it started with our defense; then we started getting a little vibe going, and then we knocked down a shot and got a putback down inside. Everything tied together but it definitely started with our defense creating our offense.”

Both teams entered Thursday's game with one loss at the hands of Riverside, preseason rated No. 3 in Class D2 statewide. But St. Francis had also survived a tough test at Hartington-Newcastle just two days earlier.

“That was a tough game. I think Hartington will win a lot of games,” Kessler said. “Being at home (tonight) helps a little bit.”

It was the Cyclones which were rolling early, taking a 14-11 lead.

“We knew they were going to run their 1-3-1, three-quarter court and half-court traps on us,” Schutt said. “I thought we did a great job of taking care of the ball, taking our time and then making good decisions on when to score and when not to attack. That got us the lead, and I thought we had good momentum.”

Clifton hit two 3-pointers within 25 seconds for a 20-15 advantage, which would prove to be the Cyclones' last lead of the game.

“I think they hit four 3s in the first quarter, and that was kind of a big deal,” Kessler said. “Our defense got better as we went. We didn't extend ourselves as much, and I think that was a good move. We got focused on our energy in the half-court, and we did a much better job.”

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