Show stoppers on the court: Caitlin Clark, and Suzanna Yoder
By Paul D. Bowker for The News, March 7, 2023
On a cold winter night more than four years ago, Suzanna Yoder had an unforgettable game for Iowa Mennonite School.
She scored a school-record 45 points and led IMS to a 63-61 victory over rival Highland. Yoder, who ranked No. 2 in scoring in Iowa girls basketball in 2019, all classes, produced the second-highest points total of the season statewide.
And who was number one? Caitlin Clark.
On Feb. 26, in front of a sellout crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City and a national TV audience on ESPN, Clark hit a dramatic 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Hawkeyes an 86-85 win over second-ranked Indiana.
The place erupted.
Clark celebrated, waving her arms, then said on ESPN: “I thought it was the money shot.” Certainly, it was. And on a weekend when the Hawkeye men’s team used a 3-point shooting game to score an incredible come-from-behind win against Michigan State on Saturday, Clark emerged as an Iowa hoops star.
Just as she was in 2019 at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. Clark was one of the top women’s basketball recruits in the nation after ranking as the state of Iowa’s top scorer in both her junior and senior seasons at Dowling Catholic. In a season when Yoder’s 45-point night against Highland was an attention grabber and set a school record, Clark had a 60-point night as a junior.
Yoder averaged 27.5 points per game for a team that finished with a losing record in Class 1A.
Clark averaged 32.5 points per game for a team that was a state semifinalist in Class 5A.
Separated by distance and size of school, IMS (now Hillcrest Academy) and Dowling Catholic never played. But what a night that would have been.
Yoder is the second-leading scorer in IMS and Hillcrest girls basketball history, scoring 1,581 points from 2015 to 2019. She still trailed the school’s record holder, Angela Bock, by more than 100 points. Yoder’s 75 3-point baskets in 2018-19 stand as a single-season school record.
Clark had 90 that season and 84 a year later in her senior season.
Clark, who is a junior at Iowa and destined to play in the WNBA and probably the Olympics one day, is a strong contender for NCAA DI Player of the Year. The Hawkeyes’ big win over Indiana sent a message that maybe Iowa can go deep into the NCAA Tournament this month. Clark scored 30 points in the Big Ten Tournament championship game against Ohio State, part of a triple-double performance. She has already won two international gold medals with USA Basketball’s national teams.
Yoder, a senior at Goshen College in Indiana, finished her season two weeks ago. She was named to the 2022-23 College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team and is a candidate for the All-America Team. Yoder went to Goshen, a Mennonite college, because that’s where her two older brothers went. A family connection.
The paths are different, but uniquely special.
And March actually will have some madness in it so long as Clark and the Hawkeyes are alive in the tournament. Clark, as she proved against Indiana, is the Larry Bird of NCAA women’s basketball. She’ll not only make the game-winning shot, but she’ll make that shot even when she’s the target of the defense and she’s off balance and the buzzer is about to go off and everybody in the arena knows that she’s going to take the last shot.
She’s dramatic and she’s emotional.
She’s the picture of Iowa at exactly the right time.
The News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul