CLINTON, Wis. - When push came to shove Tuesday night, the Big Foot girls were able to muster up just a little extra strength.
The Chiefs improved to 2-1 in Rock Valley Conference play with a 59-55 victory over host Clinton, surviving a late scare by the Coun
After trailing by five points in the second half, the Cougars surged back in front after a basket by Olivia Roehl made it 54-53 with 1:48 to play.
Junior Olivia Peterson put the Chiefs right back in front with a hoop with 1:36 to go, and the Chiefs hit enough free throws (while Clinton was missing theirs) down the stretch to earn the win.
Big Foot's Reagan Courier was a force all evening, finishing with a game-best 29 points, including four 3-pointers.
"We came into the game with the focus of taking away her left hand," Clinton coach Kim Ciochon said. "But we weren't all that successful doing that. She's a really good player and hard to defend."
The Cougars were led by junior Liz Kalk, who scored 13 of her 19 points in the first half. Kalk scored the Cougars' final eight points of the half as Big Foot led 32-29 at the break.
"For a while there, her and Reagan were really going back and forth and it was fun to watch," Big Foot coach Michael Dowden said. "Both of those girls played really well. Liz is a really good player, and they do a good job using her the right way."
After Clinton got off to an 11-4 lead in the game's opening minutes, neither team would lead by more than a few baskets for the rest of the game.
As with Big Foot, Clinton struggled with gaining balance in their attack. Kalk and Roehl, who was a solid inside presence with 16 points and seven rebounds, combined for 35 of Clinton's 53 points, with no other Cougar scoring more than five points.
Ciochon said both her primary scorers Tuesday night performed well.
"Liz played a really good all-around game," Ciochon said. "We've been talking to her a lot about her defense and boxing out, and she did both of those things as well as I've ever seen her do them tonight. And we can always count on strong play on the inside from Olivia."
One thing the Cougars couldn't count on was their free-throw shooting. Clinton was just 7-for-16 from the line after going 9-for-28 in a season-opening loss against Evansville. The Chiefs hit a respectable 15 of 25, with Courier hitting five of six.
Courier, who was one of several options for last year's WIAA regional champion Chiefs, has emerged as the obvious go-to player for this year's team.
"I think we're starting to find our way a little bit," Dowden said. "Reagan was really good tonight. Our JV coach said 'Way to coach it.' And I told him it was all about having good players, and those good players made the plays for us tonight. Everyone is getting their shots, but I think we're starting to figure out that it's not exactly equal opportunity. That's helping us a lot."
After dropping their last conference game to East Troy after holding a second-half lead, Courier said this was a critical win for her team.
"This was such a huge win for us," Courier said. "We knew how important this game was going into it and we had a lot of energy all night. Coming off that last game, we really wanted to win."
Kalk believes the Cougars have been steadily improving since the disappointing opening night loss to Evansville.
"That first game, we came out and we just weren't ready to play," Kalk said. "For us right now, it's just the little things like not finishing layups, or traveling, or missing free throws. Those are simple things that we can correct, but tonight they added up against us."
• UP NEXT: The Cougars will host East Troy Friday, while Big Foot hosts Jefferson.