HYDE — The Clearfield Lady Bison held their “Senior Night” celebration on Wednesday night, traditionally what would be their final home game of the season. But, the rather unusual 2021 campaign now meant that honoring the team’s three senior players would instead mark the halfway point of the season. The team honored Megan Durandetta, Aly Gaines, and Paige Rhine before getting into warmups. The opposition on the Bison Gymnasium hardwood came via a team that was just up the road on Route 879, the Curwensville Lady Tide.
After eight minutes, neither team held an advantage, but in the final 24 minutes, the Lady Tide found themselves trying to overcome turnovers, missed shots, and unable to capitalize when it mattered the most. In the end, Clearfield pulled away to a comfortable 62-33 victory that officially eclipsed their entire win total from last season, six to five.
Bison Head coach Joey Castagnolo acknowledged that the play of Gaines, who got her first start of the season, helped fuel the second-quarter run to get the Bison a lead they would not relinquish.
“That’s her sweet spot (the baseline jump shot), and I’m just so happy for her to make those,” he said. “It really opened things up, and we began hitting some three’s after that.”
Curwensville opened with a quick pair of buckets from Alyssa Bakaysa and Skylar Pentz to get the early 4-0 lead. The two teams would trade the lead several times in the first quarter, with no lead getting more than five points as both squads would answer one basket with another. A pair of free throws at the end of the stanza by Alaina Fedder knotted the score up at 13-all, but Curwensville’s biggest miscue in the opening quarter would haunt them as the game continued.
The Lady Tide only turned the ball over six times in the opening frame, but began to have issues keeping under control in the final three quarters, making errant passes or having the ball forced from their hands. Curwensville would commit 27 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, and Castagnolo felt that the pressure his team was putting on defensively helped put the game in their hands.
“I thought the biggest thing in the game was putting the pressure on in the second quarter, it got us fired up,”
Clearfield’s only struggle initially was trying to gain rebounds, as the Tide would win the battle on the boards, 40-32, on the night. However, Curwensville struggled to turn those rebounds into points, being held to single digits in the second and third quarters. Bakaysa and Austin Guher each accounted for 11 rebounds for Curwensville, but in the second stanza could only manage going 3-for-11 from the floor. As the teams headed to halftime, Clearfield held a 31-19 advantage, a lead they would not surrender the entire second half.
“The two centers (Bakaysa and Rhine) balanced each other out, but (Kayleigh) Walker and Butter (Alaina Fedder), they really did a nice job in the third quarter on the boards,” Castagnolo said.
Pentz would finish the night as the high scorer for the entire game, finishing with 14 points, the lone Tide player in double figures.
Clearfield would see a pair of players hit double figures, as Emma Hipps finished with a team-high 13 points plus seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Riley Ryen finished with 10 points and a team-high nine assists.
Both teams played disciplined basketball as combined there were only 11 foul shots at game’s end, and only nine fouls called the entire game. The quick pace seemed to favor Clearfield as they were able to force turnovers in the second half in transition, leading to some easy layups or jump shots, while also managing to get the three-point line in use on occasion.
Clearfield also took the opening junior varsity contest, 30-15.
For both squads, it was the first time either had been on the court for either a practice or a game this week, as the winter storm that hit the area beginning Sunday night forced both schools to be closed for the first two days of the week. Castagnolo knew it would be a challenge for both teams to get back in a rhythm, and for him personally, just seeing the team in general became a challenge.
“Friday was the last time I saw the girls. No practices nor school since then, and here we are on Wednesday playing a game,” he said. “I knew we could be a little sluggish at the start, but I have the confidence in the girls to come back.”
Most of all, Castagnolo made it a point to show how happy he was for his team to be above the .500 mark at the midway point of the season, as Clearfield only managed a 5-17 record in the 2019-2020 campaign.
“We’re halfway, 10 games in and 10 more to go. But, we’ve won six games, and that’s more than we won all last year. I’m real proud of the kids, we battle,” Castagnolo said.
Curwensville (2-4) will try to get back in the victory column on Thursday when they host Dubois inside Patton Hall. Clearfield (6-4) will be on the road on Thursday when they face the Lady Bearcats of Huntingdon. Tip off for each varsity contest is approximately 7:30 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Curwensville 13 6 4 10 – 33
Clearfield 13 18 13 18 – 62
CURWENSVILLE – 33
Alyssa Bakaysa 3 1-4 7, Joslynne Freyer 1 1-1 3, Austin Guher 0 0-0 0, Kyra Henry 3 2-2 9, Skylar Pentz 7 0-0 14, Desaray Cossar 0 0-0 0, Rachelle Anderson 0 0-0 0, Jaiden Weber 0 0-0 0, Savannah Carfley 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 14 4-7 33.
CLEARFIELD – 62
Riley Ryen 4 0-0 10, Cayleigh Walker 3 0-0 6, Emma Hipps 5 1-1 13, Paige Rhine 4 0-2 8, Megan Durandetta 3 0-0 9, Aly Gaines 3 0-0 6, Lauren Kitchen 3 0-0 6, Alaina Fedder 0 2-2 2, Alayna Winters 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 26 2-4 62.
Three-Point Shots: Henry/Ryen-2, Hipps-2, Durandetta-3