Joseph Clinch feels fortunate to have qualified for the state basketball tournament his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. "I am proud of this team and what we have accomplished," the North Platte St. Pat's senior said. "It shows that hard work pays off, especially when you do it collectively as a team."
On Thursday, Clinch will play his seventh state tournament game of his high school career when St. Pat's takes on Hartington Cedar Catholic.
Tip off is at 10:45 a.m. at Lincoln High. The Irish are seeded fourth in the tournament.
Clinch, a 6-foot-2 senior post, has been the anchor for the Irish this year. With him, Mark Mayfield and Alex Harms inside, St. Pat's has been dominant inside. All three players are capable of scoring double figures every game and their ability has helped the Irish enter state with an impressive 22-3 record and their third straight district title.
"We really emphasize getting the ball inside where we can get to the basket or the free throw line," Clinch said.
The thing that makes Clinch, Mayfield and Harms so tough is that they play together at the same time, complementing each other.
Clinch is strong and can outmuscle just about anyone under the basket. Mayfield can shoot from just about anywhere on the floor and Harms is adept at running the length of the floor in transition.
"We've been playing together for two years now so we've been learning what we do best," said Clinch. "We have good chemistry with each other."
Clinch is the third player in his family to man the inside for the Irish basketball team. His older brothers, Jestin and Micki, were also standout post players. Joseph said that neither brother took it easy on him during games in the driveway when he was growing up and that helped him develop into a physical player.
"I learned how to finish through contact from them because they were pretty rough on me," Clinch said. "I also learned how to work hard from them."
Younger brother Cory is also on the team.
Two years ago, in his sophomore season, Clinch shared the state tournament floor with brother Micki and together, they helped St. Pat's to a fourth place finish.
Clinch hopes that the feeling he got in 2011 by playing with Micki will be the same his younger brother, Cory, receives this year.
"It was a great experience to play with him," he said. "It was great bonding with him at state. Hopefully, it will be just as fun playing with my little brother this year."
As a junior, Clinch took on a bigger role helped the Irish return to Lincoln and finish fourth again.
"We didn't expect anything less," Clinch said. "If we wouldn't have made it back, it would have been a disappointment."
Having already played six games at the state tournament, Clinch said he'll remember the intensity of those contests and the hoopla surrounding them.
"I'll remember spending the weekend with my teammates," he said. "Just a lot of the little things and how great the atmosphere is. How big the crowds are."
Clinch hopes to turn that experience into the best finish yet for the Irish.
"We'll see if we can win some games and bring home the state title," Clinch said.