By Rich Rhoades
CLARION — At 10-14, the Brookville Raiders will play for a District 9 title.
After beating 15-8 Karns City for the second time this year, the Raiders earned their first finals berth since 2011 with a hard-fought 37-34 overtime win over the Gremlins in the Class AA semifinals Tuesday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium.
The Raiders will play top-seeded Redbank Valley Friday night in the finals at 8:30 p.m., also at Tippin Gymnasium. The Bulldogs advanced with an overtime win as well over Keystone.
During the regular season, the Raiders and Bulldogs split their regular-season games, each winning at home in close games, including the Raiders winning in overtime.
Keying the win for the Raiders over the Gremlins was senior forward Nate Shirts, who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. That just told part of the story. He scored 10 of the Raiders’ final 12 points and 14 of their last 17 points, including four of six points in the extra four-minute frame to lift the Raiders to within one win of a championship.
Defensively, Shirts played the primary role in shutting down Karns City’s top scorer Tyler Kepple to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. Kepple scored 25 points in Karns City’s semifinal win over Kane and he lit the Raiders up for 29 points in Brookville’s 60-47 win during the regular season.
“We put Nate on (Kepple) and have maybe that extra length to deter him from shooting some threes and at least if he did, we’d trouble him with it,” Raiders head coach Kevin Wolfe said. “He did a pretty good job. A couple times we would’ve liked to see him close out quicker and not give him as much space as he did, but for the most part he did a great job.”
It summed up a solid defensive effort for the Raiders, obviously, limiting their opponent to 34 points. The Gremlins shot just 30.4 percent from the floor (14-for-46) and made just 4 of 19 3-point shots. Kepple was 1-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“I thought the defensive effort was pretty good,” Wolfe said. “We played man 95 percent of the game and we didn’t anticipate playing it that much. We probably thought we were going to play more zone, but we just weren’t comfortable with their shooters and stuck with man. We shut down the tempo pretty well and that was a big turnaround from the first time we played them. Defensively, I thought we had a heckuva effort.”
Junior point guard Tate Canavan scored 11 points, eight in the first half, and was the only other Raider in double-figure scoring. Karns City got 14 points from David Olszak and a 15-rebound, 7-point effort from big man Logan Moroney.
The Raiders used a 10-0 second-quarter run to lead 16-7 and took an 18-11 advantage into the locker room. They extended their lead to 22-11 on a Ben Cudworth layup 59 seconds into the third quarter. But Karns City answered with a 13-0 run to take a 24-22 lead after an Olszak layup with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
From there, it was game on. The fourth quarter had five lead changes until a Shirts layup with 1:35 left gave the Raiders a 31-28 lead. Karns City’s Nathan Weckerley tied it at 31 with a 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining.
The Gremlins had the ball at the end of regulation, but Olzsak’s 3-pointer at the top of the key was blocked by Brookville’s Taite Truman.
But Olszak tried it again 23 seconds into the four-minute overtime period and nailed it to give the Gremlins a 34-31 lead. That turned out to be the final points of the game for Karns City.
A Shirts layup at the 2:56 mark and another Shirts layup off a Truman assist put the Raiders up for good at 35-34 with 56 seconds remaining. Canavan delivered two clutch free throws with 30 seconds left to set what turned out to be the final margin.
But it wasn’t over. The Gremlins’ David Markel missed on a 3-pointe with 10 seconds on the clock, Moroney got the rebound and was eventually fouled to shoot a one-and-one with 6.9 seconds remaining. Moroney missed, the Raiders rebounded and the game was over.
BROOKVILLE 37, KARNS CITY 34
Score By Quarters
Brookville 4 14 6 7 6 – 37
Karns City 5 6 13 7 3 – 34
Brookville – 37
Nate Shirts 9-16 0-2 18, Tate Canavan 4-10 3-4 11, Taite Truman 1-4 0-0 2, Ben Cudworth 2-6 0-1 4, Jack Huggins 0-6 0-0 0, Braiden Smith 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 17-43 3-7 37.
Karns City – 34
David Olszak 6-15 1-2 14, Ethan Conto 0-3 0-0 0, Tyler Kepple 2-11 0-1 5, Logan Moroney 3-7 1-3 7, Dan Filges 0-0 0-0 0, David Markel 2-7 0-0 5, Nathan Weckerley 1-3 0-0 3, Christian Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Dalton Callihan 0-0 0-0 0, Brendan Waltman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-46 2-6 34.
3-pointers: Brookville 0-7 (Truman 0-2, Huggins 0-5), Karns City 4-19 (Markel 1-6, Kepple 1-7, Weckerley 1-1, Conto 0-2, Olszak 1-3). Rebounds: Karns City 34 (Moroney 15), Brookville 32 (Huggins 7, Shirts 7). Turnovers: Brookville 11, Karns City 11.