By Rich Rhoades
CLARION — Did it beat the buzzer?
The end-result left Kane Wolves fans howling after Karns City withstood a last-second flurry for a thrilling 44-43 win in Thursday night’s District 9 Class AA semifinals. Officials waved off Jack Kocjancic’s putback at the horn that would’ve given the Wolves a one-point win.
Instead, it’s third-seeded Karns City (15-7) that advances to next week’s semifinal matchup with sixth-seeded Brookville, which beat No. 3 seed Curwensville. The Raiders beat the Gremlins, 60-47, on Jan. 8.
Karns City needed everything it got to win its first District 9 playoff game in nine years back in the 2005 Class AA title in a 56-41 win over Port Allegany.
Kane’s season finished at 7-16, but it came really close to extending to at least another game.
Tyler Kepple went 7-for-12 from beyond the 3-point line and finished with 25 points to lead the Gremlins. He David Olszak and Logon Moroney were the only Gremlins who scored. Olszak scored 17 points. Moroney had just a basket, but led the team with nine rebounds.
Kane got 24 points and nine rebounds from Jeff Kocjancic, who first had the first chance to win the game at the end. The Wolves got the ball after a Moroney front-end free throw miss with 6.6 seconds on the clock. After a timeout, Kocjancic dribbled the length of the court, put up a 3-pointer from the right win and the miss bounced into the left corner where Jack Kocjancic put up a 12-footer that was ruled to be after the horn.
Kevin Cleer scored 13 points to also reach double figures for the Wolves, who amazingly turned the ball over just four times.
Karns City led by as many as seven points in the second quarter and nine in the third quarter only to see Kane rally back both times. The Wolves got back to within 31-30 at the end of the third and grabbed their first lead of the night at 32-31 at the 6:16 mark of the fourth quarter.
From there, it was a hard-fought, back-and-forth struggle with four more lead changes in the final quarter. The Gremlins took the lead for good on David Olszak’s 3-pointer at the 3:01 mark.
But it wasn’t over for sure. Olszak hit two free throws to put the Gremlins up 42-38 with 2:05 left. Jeff Kocjancic nailed a 3-pointer to cut it to 42-41 with 1:36 remaining.
A Kepple missed front-end free throw with 55.1 seconds left was followed by a Kane missed 3-pointer and Kepple nailed two free throws to give the Gremlins a 44-41 lead with 21.8 seconds on the clock.
The Wolves settled for a two-point attempt as time wound down and Cleer’s jumper cut Karns City’s lead to 44-43 with 8.5 seconds on the clock. The Wolves fouled Moroney with 7.6 seconds remaining to set up the final — and controversial — finish.
KARNS CITY 44, KANE 43
Score By Quarters
Karns City 12 11 8 14 – 44
Kane 8 11 11 13 – 43
Karns City – 44
David Olszak 4-10 7-8 17, Ethan Conto 0-2 0-0 0, Tyler Kepple 8-15 2-3 25, Logan Moroney 1-5 0-3 2, Dan Filges 0-0 0-0 0, David Markel 0-0 0-0 0, Dalton Callihan 0-1 0-2 0, Nathan Weckerly 0-0 0-0 0, Christian Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-33 9-16 44.
Kane – 43
Kevin Cleer 4-14 4-6 13, Jack Kocjancic 1-7 0-0 2, Jeff Kocjancic 11-21 0-0 24, Andrew Pierson 1-3 1-3 3, Zach Scholl 0-0 0-0 0, John English 0-1 1-2 1, Tyler Rolick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-46 6-11 43.
3-pointers: Karns City 9-17 (Olszak 2-3, Conto 0-1, Kepple 7-12), Kane 3-12 (Cleer 1-3, Ja. Kocjancic 0-5, Je. Kocjancic 2-4). Rebounds: Karns City 32 (Moroney 9), Kane 23 (Je. Kocjancic 9). Turnovers: Karns City 12, Kane 4.