By Chris Rossetti
CLARION – Freshman aren’t supposed to be the ones stepping up at the most important time of the season.
But someone forgot to tell C-L’s 6-foot-5 baby post Dan Callen that.
Callen scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter including nine in the final 4:08 helping the Lions pull away from Redbank Valley for a 62-50 win in the KSAC Championship Game Friday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“He’s one of the best freshmen I’ve seen,” Ferguson said of Callen, who completed a double-double with 11 rebounds. It’s pretty cool to see the transition of where he was at the start of the season to where he is now.”
That the bulk of Callen’s work came at the most crucial time of the game was more impressive. His run of nine of C-L’s final 17 points started when the game was in the balance with the Lions leading 45-40. The first seven of which helped increase the lead to 52-45 with just less than three minutes left.
“For a freshman, he’s a great player,” Redbank Valley head coach Greg Bean said. “We wanted to attack him early. He just got loose a little bit.”
Callen’s spurt came right after the game’s turning point.
Redbank Valley, which trailed by 10, 31-21, at halftime and by 10 again, 45-35, two minutes into the fourth quarter, cut C-L’s lead to five, 45-40, with 4 ½ minutes to play thanks to some strong defensive play in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs were then poised to get even closer or perhaps even tie the game after Devin Shumaker came away with a steal off an inbounds pass by the Lions and was intentionally fouled by C-L’s Josh Kahle.
The intentional foul meant Shumaker got two free throws, and Redbank Valley got the ball back after the free throws giving the Bulldogs a potential for a 5-point possession.
But Redbank Valley didn’t get a single point out of the sequence.
First, Shumaker missed both free throws. Then, the Bulldogs threw the inbounds pass out of bounds giving the ball back to C-L.
“I felt that was the turning point,” Ferguson said. I was really concerned at that point. Those missed free throws were critical. They were big.”
Bean attributed Redbank Valley’s failure to capitalize partially on nerves.
“We cut it to five, we had two free throws, we had the ball out of bounds,” Bean said. “We missed both and then turned it over, an uncharacteristic mistake. I think that’s just the level if this game. We had some nerves in this game. For Redbank Valley, this is the first time experiencing this level of basketball. We had a couple of guys come up last year to watch the playoffs, but watching 20 rows up can’t intimate the passion or energy you get on the floor. It’s valuable experience for us going forward.”
While the missed opportunity didn’t completely bury the Bulldogs, they were still within five, 50-45, following a Jake Dougherty three with 3:31 left. It made the climb to the top a little too steep especially with a pair of 6-foot-5 Lions, Callen and junior Kolton Stiglitz, able to get to the mountain just a little quicker with Stiglitz adding five points down the stretch as well on his way to 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Ferguson credited junior point guard Laugand, who had 17 points – 13 in the first half – and eight assists with getting the big men involved late – Laugand had three helpers in the final 2:49.
“Our size stands out when RJ and the guards get penetration,” Ferguson said. “In the fourth quarter, that really stood out. It’s pretty hard to stop 6-5. I was really pleased with how the big guys played.”
For C-L, it was the second KSAC title in three years after going 41 years between conference championships.
“We’ve been working on trying to get the program elevated so we can compete at a higher level, and these kids have really worked hard,” Ferguson, whose in his eighth season, said. “It was nice to get the win. I felt the kids really played well as a team.”
Dougherty led all scorers with 23 points including going11 of 14 from the foul line, while Shumaker chipped in with 13 points for Redbank Valley.
Both teams now move on to the District 9 playoffs. C-L will be the second seed in Class A and will play the winner of the Union-DuBois Central Catholic first-round contest. Redbank Valley will be the top seed in Class AA and will await the winner of the Cranberry-Keystone quarterfinal matchup.
NOTES – Redbank Valley was playing in its first KSAC Title Game, while C-L was making its second appearance. The Lions join Keystone and North Clarion as multiple winners of the KSAC Title Game, which was played for the eight time Friday night, the first time away from Clarion High School.
CLARION-LIMESTONE 62, REDBANK VALLEY 50
Score by Quarters
Redbank Valley 11 10 14 15 – 50
Clarion-Limestone 13 18 9 22 – 62
Redbank Valley – 62
Devin Shumaker 5 0-2 13, Sam Heeter 3 0-0 6, Jake Dougherty 5 11-14 23, Quintin Brocious 0 0-0 0, Donnie Brown 1 1-2 3, Zach Westover 1 3-5 5, Dalton Dougherty 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 15-23 50.
Clarion-Limestone – 50
RJ Laugand 7 2-5 17, Christian Bakewell 0 0-0 0, Josh Kahle 2 0-0 5, Noah Rankin 2 3-3 7, Jesse Pezzuti 1 0-1 3, Brent Slater 1 0-0 2, Kolton Stiglitz 6 1-2 13, Dan Callen 7 1-1 15, Cesar Lopez 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 7-12 62.
Three-pointers – Redbank Valley 5 (Shumaker 3, J. Dougherty 2). C-L 3 (Laugand, Kahle, Pezzuti).