(Photo by Don Long Photography)
By Rich Rhoades
CLARION — With his team’s top scorer bottled up by Redbank Valley, Brookville Raiders senior guard Jack Huggins dialed up a long-distance bombing raid of the Bulldogs and came up big.
Sparked by Huggins’ career-high 21 points, the Raiders overcame what looked to be a disastrous 15-4 deficit to start the game and broke away for a 52-37 win in Friday night’s District 9 Class A Championship game at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium.
Believed to be the first losing team below Class AAA in district history to win a title, the 11-14 Raiders move on to the state playoffs next Saturday against District 10 third-place team Mercyhurst Prep, most likely back at Tippin at a time to be announced.
The resurgent Bulldogs, the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference’s runner-up, finished the year at 17-8. While D9 sends its top two Class AA girls’ finishers to states, the boys’ side gets just one slot.
“We climbed to the top of the mountain tonight, but weren’t able to plant our flag,” said Bulldogs head coach Greg Bean. “The guys who are juniors and seniors were part of that 1-21 team. This turnaround has been huge. People don’t see the work these guys have put in, the 7 a.m. workouts, the practices, but this team has earned all of it.”
Huggins hadn’t reached double figures since the Raiders’ loss at Bradford Jan. 10, a span of 13 games that included a 3-point effort against the Bulldogs Feb. 10. In Tuesday’s semifinal win over Karns City on the same Tippin floor, Huggins went scoreless with an 0-for-5 night from beyond the 3-point line.
This time around, he was 6-for-9 from the field, 4-for-7 from trey land and 5-for-5 from the foul line to lead all scorers.
“You have to have confidence,” Huggins said. “The coaches told me I have the green light in my distance at least and shoot it if I feel it and let it fly.”
He certainly wasn’t just off the 3-point arc on most of them, drilling the majority from the 23- to 24-foot area.
“Jack’s a guy who when he misses a couple, he loses his confidence,” Raiders head coach Kevin Wolfe said. “We kept telling him he had to shoot that ball. A couple times he passed up shots and every time I could get his attention, I told him he had to shoot the ball. He started to let it fly and when he hits, his conf comes back and he’s more willing to shoot.”
Huggins didn’t make his first shot until a layup cut the deficit to 15-6 with 4:02 left in the second quarter. Up until that point, the Bulldogs defensive stymied the Raiders and controlled the game. Huggins’ first three made it 17-12 at the 2:55 mark and the Raiders got to within 20-14 by halftime.
“We went into halftime and really pleased with only being down six,” Wolfe said. “We looked at 20 points (for Redbank) and that’s where we want to be defensively as a team. Forty points is our target and I told the team we weren’t out of this thing.”
Wolfe was spot on as the Raiders outscored the Bulldogs, 38-17, in the second half to take control of the game. They led by as many as 18 in the closing minutes before finishing off their first Class AA crown since 2011. The Raiders’ senior trio — Huggins, Nate Shirts and Braiden Smith — were sophomores on the team that lost in the 2012 finals to Smethport.
“This was the win I wanted, the only game that matters right now,” Shirts said. “Stats don’t matter right now. We got the district title we didn’t get back in 10th grade and I’m glad we got it now.”
Shirts came in averaging 16.6 points per game and finished with a season-low five points on 2-for-8 shooting. He did throw together his familiar non-shooting numbers with 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks and did a similar job on Redbank Valley’s top scorer Jake Dougherty — 3 points, 1-for-15 shooting — as he did in the semifinals on Karns City’s top scorer Tyler Kepple (5 points, 2-for-11 shooting).
“(Redbank Valley) really took Nate out initially,” Wolfe said. “They put (Quintin) Brocious on him and he did a great job on him. He chased him around the court wherever he went and we had a tough time getting into our offensive sets.”
And the Bulldogs nearly ran away early because of it. Junior point guard Devin Shumaker scored nine of his team-high 15 points during the 15-4 run that extended to the 5:28 mark of the second quarter after Shumaker’s spinning layup.
Even though Brookville closed the first half on a 10-5 run, it was Shumaker’s 3-pointer with five seconds left that gave the Bulldogs a 20-14 lead at halftime.
As it turns out, it was Shumaker’s only three he made in 10 attempts — he was 6-for-7 inside the line — and the Bulldogs finished 3-for-22 for the game, many coming late during desperation mode. While the Raiders turned up the defense, the Bulldogs still missed many open looks. They wound up shooting 29 percent (15-for-51) from the floor compared to Brookville’s 38 percent (18-for-47).
Shumaker was the lone double-figure scorer for the Bulldogs, who got eight points and nine rebounds from Zach Westover.
Huggins hit his final three 3-pointers in the third quarter, the first starting the scoring 57 seconds into the second half and the last two during the quarter-closing 7-1 run that put the Raiders up for good at 34-27 entering the fourth quarter.
Huggins’ layup put the Raiders into a double-digit lead for good at 38-27 with 5:44 remaining.
“We’ve seen them this year twice,” said Bean. “We knew what to expect and we thought we knew how to defend it. That second half just saw the wind taken out of our sails, and it just wasn’t in the cards for us tonight.”
And now it’s on to states for the champs with a sub-.500 record.
“We told the guys after the game ‘We’re 11-14, does anybody care about that?’ The response was ‘no’ and I felt pretty good about that,” Wolfe said. “I feel we play a pretty tough schedule during the year, the Ridgways and Johnsonburgs, Elk County Catholic twice, and some bigger schools like DuBois, so I think that prepares us better than some of the teams with maybe weaker schedules. It’s a losing record and nobody likes that, but it’s sure nice to hold up that trophy.”
NOTES: The Raiders played all four Class A semifinalists (Elk County Catholic, Ridgway, Johnsonburg and Clarion-Limestone), including finalist Elk County Catholic twice, and Class AAA champion Punxsutawney and lost all seven games. The Raiders lost at home back in December to Johnsonburg, 60-56. Huggins scored a then-career high 18 points with five 3-pointers. … The Raiders finished the year with a 6-1 record against the Class AA playoff field, including a 2-1 mark against the Bulldogs. The Raiders beat the Bulldogs in overtime at home, 64-61, back on Dec. 23 and the Bulldogs won at home, 60-56, Feb. 10. … It’s the third Class AA title in five years for the Raiders, who won back-to-back crowns in 2010 and 2011. Other D9 titles: 1992, 1996 and 1997 in Class AAA, 1976 and 1981 in Class AA, and then 1940 and 1965 in Class A in what was the largest classification in a three-division system back then. … Redbank Valley was trying to win its first district title since 1980. The Bulldogs were playing in their first championship game since 1991. … The Bulldogs have plenty returning next year, losing just two players from their regular rotation. Junior 1,000-point scorer Dougherty and Shumaker were the team’s top two scorers while Westover and sophomore Sam Heeter were key contributors as well.
BROOKVILLE 52, REDBANK VALLEY 37
Score By Quarters
Brookville 4 10 20 18 – 52
Redbank 9 11 7 10 – 37
Brookville – 52
Nate Shirts 2-8 1-4 5, Tate Canavan 2-11 6-9 10, Taite Truman 4-8 0-3 8, Ben Cudworth 4-8 0-0 8, Jack Huggins 6-9 5-5 21, Braiden Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Shawn Blochberger 0-0 0-0 0, Kurt Schindler 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Byerly 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-47 12-21 52.
Redbank Valley – 37
Devin Shumaker 7-17 1-3 16, Sam Heeter 2-6 0-0 5, Jake Dougherty 1-15 1-2 3, Quintin Brocious 1-6 0-2 2, Zach Westover 3-6 2-3 8, Donnie Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Khorey Neiswonger 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 15-51 4-10 37.
3-pointers: Brookville 4-10 (Huggins 4-7, Truman 0-3), Redbank Valley 3-22 (Shumaker 1-10, Heeter 1-3, Neiswonger 1-1, Dougherty 0-6, Brocious 0-2). Rebounds: Brookville 40 (Shirts 10), Redbank Valley 35 (Westover 9). Turnovers: Redbank Valley 18, Brookville 14.
By ANDY CLOSE
CLARION, Pa. – Three-peat!
It wasn’t a work of art, but the Bradford Lady Owls added to their great run of success by capturing their third-straight District 9 Class AAA title, 31-18 over Punxsutawney.
The game was the second-lowest combined point total in D-9 Class AAA title game history, but Bradford coach Bob Hannon couldn’t have cared less about that.
“I think it might have been a combination of both teams were a little amped up,” he said. “Our goal every game is to hold a team under 20 points, but I usually don’t envision us scoring only 31.”
As usual, senior point guard Ali Rinfrette stepped up big.
Rinfrette, who has started every game of her high school career, scored Bradford’s final seven points, providing the knockout blow when it seemed like there might not be one.
“She’s a tremendous asset,” Hannon said. “I wouldn’t trade her for any other point guard in the district. She’s just a gamer and I can’t imagine there’s too many other girls who are more valuable to their team.”
The lead never got below six in the second half, but Bradford was never in control until Rinfrette’s three with 2:07 left that made it 27-18.
Rylee Lundgren started the fourth quarter with a three, but that was immediately answered on the other end by a triple from Nicole Dipietro, displaying the kind of back-and-forth struggle that was reminiscent of the two games the teams played earlier in the season (both Bradford wins by a combined six points).
The score stayed 24-18 until Rinfrette’s three-point dagger.
“It was just a hard-fought game,” Hannon said. “Neither team shot the ball well. The turning point was Rylee hitting that big three and Ali comes down and hits that three with two minutes left and that’s pretty much the end of the story.”
Bradford’s pressure defense gave the Lady Chucks problems, especially in the first half.
Punxsy scored just one point in the first eight minutes, with their first field goal coming nearly a minute into the second quarter on a jumper from Emily Horner.
Bradford’s full-court press forced nine Punxsy turnovers during the opening eight-plus minute stretch. By contrast, the Lady Chucks attempted just three shots in the opening period.
“We had something up our sleeve,” Hannon said, referring to the press, which was spearheaded by Liz Coppella, who had six steals.
“Liz played tremendous defense,” noted Hannon. “She hustles all the time.”
As a team, Punxsy shot just 24 percent from the floor, but the Lady Owls weren’t much better at a 26 percent clip for the game.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these girls, they gave it everything they had and played good, strong defense,” Hannon said. “There are some nights you just have trouble throwing the ball in the basket.”
Bradford trailed just once in the game, 1-0, after a free throw by Ashley Reitz 1:12 into the game, and the 13-point margin of victory was their largest lead.
Hannon, who is in his first year as head coach, feels fortunate to be head coach of the program.
“It’s been a tremendous amount of fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade these girls for anyone. I was hesistant and I didn’t know if I wanted to get into, but I’m awfully glad I did.”
Bradford will meet the fourth-place team from District 7 (WPIAL) March 8 and a site and time to be determined.
NOTES: Bradford held a 34-27 edge on the glass, including 14-6 on the offensive end … Haley Vinelli led Bradford with five offensive rebounds … Freshman Bri Wells led Bradford with 6 total rebounds … Alyssa Reitz led Punxsutawney with 6 boards … Taylor Newcome, Punxsutawney’s leading scorer, was held scoreless for the game.
BRADFORD 31, PUNXSUTAWNEY 18
Punxsutawney 1 8 6 3-18
Bradford 7 10 4 10-31
Ashley Reitz 1-1-2-3, Taylor Newcome 0-0-0-0, Emily Horner 1-0-0-2, Jensen Constantino 2-2-6-6, Allie Fye 2-0-0-4, Alyssa Reitz 0-0-1-0, Shaina Painter 0-0-0-0, Anna Horner 0-0-0-0, Nicole Dipietro 1-0-0-3, Totals 7-3-9-18
Ali Rinfrette 5-6-7-17, Liz Coppella 2-0-2-4, Haley Vinelli 1-1-3-3, Payton Ambrose 1-0-0-2, Rylee Lundgren 1-0-0-3, Bri Wells 1-0-0-2, Marissa Yohe 0-0-0-0, Morgan Roggenbaum 0-0-0-0, Totals 11-7-11-31
Three-pointers – Punxsutawney (Dipietro). Bradford 2 (Rinfrette, Lundgren).
KANE, Pa. – Behind 18 points from Becca Lathrop, Port Allegany rallied for a 49-46 win over Venango Catholic in the Class A girls consolation game Friday.
The Lady Gators (22-1) rebounded from their first loss of the season Wednesday to Clarion in the semifinals (54-45), by outscoring Venango 21-12 in the fourth quarter after trailing 34-28.
Venango Catholic (19-6) was led by Lindsey Homan, who poured in a game-high 20 points.
PORT ALLEGANY 49, VENANGO CATHOLIC 46
Venango 11 14 9 12—46
Port A. 9 13 6 21—49
VENANGO CATHOLIC (46)
A. Homan 2-0-0-4, Kuhn 0-0-0-0, Dziekciasz 4-0-0-8, L. Homan 7-6-7-20, Guth 2-0-0-4, Moltz 3-2-3-10, Totals 18-8-10-46
PORT ALLEGANY (49)
Miller 0-0-0-0, A. Buchsenschutz 0-2-2-2, Johnson 1-2-2-4, S. Buchsenschutz 3-3-5-10, Delacour 1-1-3-3, Roys 6-0-3-12, Lathrop 6-6-8-18, Totals 17-14-23-49
Three-pointers: Venango – Moltz 2; Port A. – S. Buchsenschutz 1
By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Behind a big second half by Tyler Young, Punxsutawney won its first District 9 title since 2005 with a 54-35 win over Clearfield Friday evening at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“It’s just a great feeling,” Punxsutawney head coach Dirk Neal said. “I can’t even describe it. Without a doubt, this is special.”
Young scored a game-high 16 points including 13 in the second half to lift the Chucks (14-9) to the title that has eluded them the past two seasons in losses to Bradford in the D9 title game.
“Tyler who is one of those players who when you tell him to do something he listens to you,” Neal said. “We picked up on some things we needed to make adjustments to. At halftime, we put him in the post. He is one of those players when he makes a couple of baskets he just feeds off of it. ”
Punxsutawney led by just three, 19-16, at halftime against a Clearfield squad it had beaten 70-38 Jan. 3.
“One things we have to realize is, when we played them the first time their football players had only had a total of four or five practices,” Neal said “Going into to tonight, We said throw out the records, throw out the scores, its a district championship game.”
Up one, 19-18, a minute into the second half, Punxsutawney went on an 11-2 run to take command of the game.
Three-pointers by Brandon Mancuso and Young were key to the spurt with Young scoring five points and Mancuso and Cory Geer three each.
The run helped give the Chucks gain a 32-22 lead going to the fourth quarter.
The lead quickly became 17, 43-26, midway through the third quarter thanks to a 7-0 spurt that featured three more points from Young and two each from Mancuso and Geer.
The commanding lead was more than Clearfield’s offense could handle, as the Bison (6-17) were limited to 30.8 percent (12 of 39) shooting in the game including 2 of 14 from 3-point range.
“I can honestly tell you in the 14 wins we’ve got, its our defense that has gotten us here,” Neal said. “We limit teams, and that’s what got us here tonight.”
In addition to his 16 points, Young added eight rebounds. Geer had 13 points and nine rebounds with Mancuso adding 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Christian Lezzer led Clearfield with 14 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
Punxsutawney moves into the PIAA playoffs next week where it will play the fourth-place team out of the WPIAL either Uniontown or Thomas Jefferson.
PUNXSUTAWNEY 54, CLEARFIELD 35
Score by Quarters
Clearfield……………….. 9 7 6 13 – 35
Punxsutawney……………… 9 10 13 22 – 54
CLEARFIELD – 35
LEZZER, Christian 6-14 1-2 14; WESTEN, Wyatt 3-5 0-0 7; FORD, Seth 1-2 4-9 6; BROWN, Andrew 1-1 0-0 2; JANOCKO, Jonathan 0-3 2-2 2; SPAID, Cody 1-3 0-0 2; HRYN, Derek 0-1 1-2 1; MYERS, Will 0-5 1-2 1; SELLERS, Erik 0-4 0-0 0;
TAYLOR, Kaleb 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-39 9-17 35.
PUNXSUTAWNEY – 54
YOUNG, Tyler 5-11 4-5 16; GEER, Cory 4-6 5-10 13; MANCUSO, Brandon 4-12 3-5 12; KLINGENSMITH, Mike 1-4 4-4 6; SLONIGER, Ryan 1-4 1-2 4; LUNGER, Brycen 1-1 0-0 2; DALE, Clayton 0-0 1-2 1; FEDIGAN, Andy 0-0 0-0 0; CURTIS, Will
0-0 0-0 0; TAYLOR, Rueben 0-1 0-0 0; MATTHEWS, John 0-2 0-2 0. Totals 16-41 18-30 54.
3-point goals–Clearfield 2-14 (LEZZER, Christian 1-8; WESTEN, Wyatt 1-2; SPAID, Cody 0-1; MYERS, Will 0-2; TAYLOR, Kaleb 0-1), Punxsutawney 4-17 (YOUNG, Tyler 2-5; SLONIGER, Ryan 1-4; MANCUSO, Brandon 1-5; TAYLOR, Rueben
0-1; MATTHEWS, John 0-1; KLINGENSMITH, Mike 0-1).
Rebounds–Clearfield 30 (LEZZER, Christian 9), Punxsutawney 33 (GEER, Cory 9).
Assists–Clearfield 3 (SELLERS, Erik 1; WESTEN, Wyatt 1; MYERS, Will 1), Punxsutawney 6 (GEER, Cory 2; MATTHEWS, John 2).
Here are the state playoff pairings for the District 9 qualifiers. The opening round of the state playoffs is March 7-8 at site and times to be announced. First-round date is listed by each classification. With sites, all District 9 champions will play at a D9 site to be announced as will the Class A runners-up for both boys and girls. All other sites will be at other district locations.
Note on WPIAL (District 7) seeding process beyond the top two finishers: There are no consolation or “placing” games scheduled, meaning if Team A wins the title, then the team it beat in the semifinals would be seeded third and quarterfinals seeded fifth. If Team B loses in the finals, then the team it beat in the semifinals would be the fourth seed.
Will be updated as games are completed:
CLASS A (FRIDAY, MARCH 7)
Opponent: Kennedy Catholic, District 10 third place
Runner-up Elk Co. Catholic
Opponent: Homer Center, District 6 third-place
Opponent: WPIAL champion Lincoln Park
Opponent: District 6 champion Bishop Carroll
CLASS AA (SATURDAY, MARCH 8)
Opponent: District 10 third-place Mercyhurst Prep
CLASS AAA (FRIDAY, MARCH 7)
Opponent: WPIAL fourth seed Uniontown
CLASS A (SATURDAY, MARCH 8)
Opponent: WPIAL fifth seed Frazier
Opponent: Claysburg-Kimmel, District 6 third-place
Third-Place Port Allegany
Opponent: WPIAL champion Vincentian
Fourth-Place Venango Catholic
Opponent: District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle
CLASS AA (FRIDAY, MARCH 7)
Champion Karns City
Opponent: District 10 third-place Girard
Opponent: WPIAL runner-up Burrell
CLASS AAA (SATURDAY, MARCH 8)
Opponent: WPIAL fourth seed Elizabeth Forward
EDINBORO — It’s playoff time for the DuBois Beavers and they’ll end a 16-day layoff when they take on District 10 champion McDowell at Edinboro University Saturday at 3 p.m.
It’s a PIAA sub-regional, or play-in game between the Beavers (11-10) and Trojans (21-3) with the winner advancing to the state tournament March 8 against the WPIAL third-place finisher, either North Allegheny or Kiski Area.
DuBois, the only Class AAAA school in District 9, hasn’t played since losing its regular-season finale at Brookville back on Feb. 12. Meanwhile, the Trojans won their district title after beating arch-rival Cathedral Prep, 66-52, on Tuesday. The Trojans had lost both regular-season meetings to Prep. Their only other loss was to Thomas Jefferson in December.
In the Trojans’ win over Prep, Michael Beck scored 17 points and Quinn Lewis scored 10 points.
DuBois and McDowell last met on the court in a similar setup back in 2005 when McDowell beat the Beavers, 71-56, also at Edinboro University. The Trojans outscored the Beavers, 45-28, in the second half.
The Beavers are back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. In 2012, They split their District 6-9 playoff games with a win over Altoona and loss to Mifflin County.
The Beavers have three players averaging double figures. Senior Hunter Lydick leads the way with 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting an impressive 59 percent from the field. Juniors Beau Shepherd (11 ppg.) and Cole Kriner (10.9 ppg.) are also double-figure scorers.