Top-ranked Clark storms past No. 3 Highline

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor

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photoClark's Sean Price takes the ball to the hoop in the first half against Highline on on Saturday. Price finished with 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

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photoClark's Kyle Thurston puts up a jump shot against Highline's Jimmy Keum in the first half at Clark on Saturday.

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It's a wonder more basketball coaches aren't weathermen.

In addition to plays and strategy, they must be able to read an emotional barometer.

Saturday, Clark College coach Alex Kirk saw high pressure approaching O'Connell Sports Center in No. 3-ranked Highline.

He gauged the energy of his No. 1-ranked Penguins and dialed down the hype.

"We didn't have to do a whole lot to get them ready," Kirk said. "We had to calm them down and keep their excitement level to a minimum."

Saturday, Clark's shooters made it rain. Eleven 3-pointers helped the Penguins beat Highline 94-77 for their 14th straight win.

With eight games remaining, Clark (8-0, 16-1) now has a two-game lead in the West Division of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.

"We think that everybody is coming to get us," Clark forward Collin Spickerman said. "We have to be our best every night. Going up against a good team definitely lets you prove that."

What stood out Saturday is how many ways Clark can beat an opponent.

Spickerman gave Clark an above-the-rim presence. His four dunks were part of a team-high 20 points along with 11 rebounds.

Intense and energetic, Sean Price nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. He also keyed a defensive effort that held Highline to 39 percent shooting.

Max Livingston and Kyle Thurston each had 18 points and four 3-pointers.

"I think we have every piece you need to be a champion," said Price, a Columbia River graduate. "We knew if we got this one, we'd have a great chance to secure the No. 1 spot."

Clark led by as many as 15 points in the first half. But Highline entered halftime on a 7-0 run to cut Clark's lead to 38-30.

Highline pulled within 38-35, but Clark responded with a 21-7 run over the next 6:30. Price had eight points and three assists over that stretch.

From that point, Clark calmly put the game away. Highline briefly pulled within eight points in the final minutes, but otherwise never threatened.

That coolness was reflected in the Penguins post-game mood.

"We've got a group that's excited, but they're not tearing down the walls and banging their chests," Kirk said. "They're just saying 'good win.'"

It was the calm after the storm, one that Clark hopes to ride to an NWAACC championship.