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Observations, thoughts from first week of basketball playoffs

By Andy Close

We’ve had controversy, dominant individual performances and upsets. And it’s only been three days.

Before everyone turns their attention to the semifinals, here’s a look at some of the most intriguing stories to emerge so far.


Wild Finish between Karns City and Kane in Class AA

This was certainly the most talked about game, with Kane’s Jack Kocjancic’s potential game-winning put-back waived off after they determined it didn’t beat the clock.

A still photo emerged shortly after the game and later a video. It’s hard to say for certain whether it beat the buzzer or not, but for my money, I think the officials got it right.

The final moments overshadowed great individual efforts from KC’s Tyler Kepple and Kane’s Jeff Kocjancic, who scored 25 and 24 points respectively.

These two teams from opposite ends of the district have developed quite a rivalry in football, playing each other in the district championship game each of the past two years. After Thursday’s game, that rivalry appears headed for the basketball court as well.

Ridgway boys turn in impressive performance against Cameron County

The first meeting between the two schools was memorable for Dylan Clilgnan’s three-quarter court game-winner, but their playoff meeting Friday will be remembered for a dominant defensive effort by the Elkers.

I’ll admit, after a one-point game the  first time around, I expected this game to be a toss-up.

Ridgway, however, had other ideas, giving up just five first half points to a team with District 9’s leading scorer, Nate Sestina.

It was a tough way to end a great season for the Red Raiders, who will once again be a contender next year with four of five starters returning.

For Ridgway, it’s a return trip to the state playoffs and maybe a third-straight district title game appearance.

Tightly contested in Class AA

Going into the playoffs, most reasonable minds could agree that the Class A field was up for grabs.

After the quarterfinal results, it’s hard to argue that point, as the three games were decided by a total of four points, with Brookville, Karns City and Keystone advancing.

Elk County dominance

Johnsonburg, Elk County Catholic and Ridgway are in the final four, joined by Clarion-Limestone after the Lions outlasted DuBois Central Catholic in OT.

Playoffs are a time for stars to shine, and these teams’ best players certainly did that, with ECC”s Cory Huff, Ridgway’s Jeremy Breier, Johnsonburg’s Cameron Grumley and Cole Peterson and C-L’s R.J. Laugand all delivering big performances in the quarterfinal round.

It’s going to be exciting to see what these players and teams have in store for everyone in the coming week.


Port Allegany, Venango Catholic, Clarion take care of business

The Nos. 1, 3 and 4 seeds were each in control from start to finish in their quarterfinal games, winning by an average of 26.6 points.

The only team in terms of seeding to score an upset was Keystone with a 46-27 win over Couderport.

Speaking of Keystone

Maddie Johnson has been perhaps the most dominant player in the playoffs thus far. After turning in a 21-point, 20-rebound effort in the Lady Panthers’ first round win over Cameron County, she responded with 24 points and 12 boards against Coudersport.

The wins set up a rematch with Venango Catholic, who handed Keystone its worst loss of the season on Jan. 17, 57-36.

The other semifinal will be a rematch of last season’s title game between Port Allegany and Clarion. Clarion won that game, 56-41.

Young Lady Wolves continue to impress

Freshman Kiley Kinney and Camryn Cummings have been fixtures in Kane’s starting lineup this season, and they along with the rest of the Kane girls continue to impress.

They beat Curwensville for the third-time this season, 52-45 in the quarterfinals after trailing by nine early in the game.

A complimentary Curwensville coach Rusty McCracken said afterwards: “Freshmen aren’t supposed to do that.”

But they have, time and again this season, and now find themselves one win away from playing for a district title.

Also in that game, Curwensville’s Ciara Strickland scored 16 points to give her 999 for her career. Only a junior and one of the district’s leading scorers the last two season’s, Strickland and the Tide will be back again next season.

Also in Class AA

Redbank Valley avenged a pair of losses to Moniteau during the season with a 47-42 win, as Brooke Hinderliter went for 18 points, including the final five points after the game was tied at 42-42.

Clarion-Limestone outlasted Cranberry and the district’s leading scorer, Emily Merryman, 50-38.

Merryman did her part, scoring 27 points, but Abby Mellott led a balanced C-L effort with 23 points. The win snapped C-L’s 14-game losing streak to the Berries.

Also, top-seed Karns City took care of business against Brookville, 57-23, including a 24-2 first quarter. Shanel Preston scored 23 points to lead the way.





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