HYDE — For fans that enjoy seeing Mountain League rivals go toe-to-toe on the hardwood, they got a treat inside the Bison Gymnasium on Monday night. Fresh off a season-opening win against Curwensville, the Clearfield Bison were ready to start their league play against a squad many had pinned as the one team that could give the defending champions a run, the Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties.
And give them a run they did, because P-O had the Bison reeling early in the game, to the point where it looked like Clearfield was a much different team compared to just three nights ago. However, with some adjustments, timely shooting, and key free throws, the home crowd would go home happy, capturing a 46-40 triumph much to the delight of the coaches.
“What a game. I told those guys, TJ (Anderson) would have his team ready to go, and they forced us to make some mistakes,” head coach Nate Glunt said of the Mounties. “Give our kids so much credit, because we kept our poise. Cole (Miller) worked so hard to get open, because they were not going to let him do anything. All the kids stepped up. Once Cole made a shot, we were able to get in a rhythm, and battled.
“Our defense kept us in it. They scored 10 in the first quarter, but 40 for the game. To hold that team to just 40 points meant we played really solid defense.”
It was the miscues on the part of Clearfield that got things looking rather bleak in the opening stanza. P-O pushed out to an 8-0 run before Clearfield ever made a basket, that coming with just under two minutes remaining. In fact, Clearfield’s first shot at the basket wasn’t a mere 30 seconds before. So, hoping to get back in the game, the Bison defense began putting more pressure on the open passes. After turning the ball over eight times in the first quarter, the defense was forcing P-O to make the mistakes they did. The majority of the Mounties roster had the height advantage on Clearfield, with most having an easy reach above the defenders. So, Clearfield began pressing hard, and after only scoring two points in the first quarter, started to reel in the opposition.
The second quarter was the true game-changer, because as Glunt mentioned, Miller would see he was not going to get the easy looks at the basket, so he began making his own lane, and would put down three key shots in the quarter, including a pair of threes. Add in another major bucket from Andon Greslick at the baseline, and Clearfield suddenly managed to not only close the gap, but heading into halftime would hold a 17-16 advantage, with momentum right in their pocket.
“Everyone was talking during the off-season about what Philipsburg was going to do, and they were right. They are a really strong team, they got size. They don’t play dirty, and are well coached,” Glunt said. “You saw that tonight.”
The third quarter saw a true back-and-forth contest as the two sides traded the lead multiple times, with no one holding a true advantage.
P-O would see Jeremy Whitehead find a groove, putting up seven of his team-high 18 points in the quarter. On the opposing side, Miller put up eight points, while also forcing some errant passes on defense. He would finish with a game-high 22 points, plus a six-pack of rebounds. However, the two squads battled to a draw in the quarter, as each put up 15 points to still give Clearfield the one-point advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
That final quarter, with how the first 24 minutes played out, was coming down to who could make the timely baskets, and also take advantage of opportunities. Those opportunities came at the free throw line, starting with the most critical one from Miller. On a dish inside he would find penetration and put the ball up in the paint, with it somehow falling into the net, and also drawing the foul. His plus-one would go in, and that would soon become a critical moment.
The Mounties were getting in foul trouble, but so was the Bison, as Luke Pallo had a late foul, and Isakk Way would have a pair of fouls in the late going, eventually earning five to head to the sidelines.
However, those foul line opportunities would not be good for P-O. Nick Johnson had a plus-one opportunity to cut the lead down to just one point with just over two minutes to go, but his shot missed off the back of the glass. Tristen Doyle went to the line for a 1-and-1 chance, but his shot went left off the rim, with Miller landing the rebound. Only Whitehead made a free throw in the final quarter, as the Mounties went 1-for-5 at the foul line in the quarter, finishing 5-for-10.
Glunt mentioned that every practice they work on foul shooting, and noted how key it was in the final quarter, stating, “At one point I believe we had a three-point lead, and they were at the line. They went 1-for-2, and we got the rebound. They fouled us, and we went 2-for-2 to go up four. We hit so many clutch free throws because we were hitting them at practice. To make them in a game, you have to constantly practice, and they do a great job at that.”
The Mounties did manage a win in the opening junior varsity game, 42-36.
Sitting at 2-0, Clearfield has no rest in sight because they are back on the court in the Bison Gym Tuesday night as they play host to the Dutchmen of St. Marys. Junior varsity will tip off at 6 p.m. with varsity action coming around 7:30 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Philipsburg-Osceola 10 6 15 9 – 40
Clearfield 2 15 15 14 – 46
Philipsburg-Osceola – 40
Oliver Harper 0 2-2 2, Nick Johnson 2 0-1 4, Tristen Doyle 4 0-1 8, Jake Desimone 2 2-3 6, Jeremy Whitehead 8 1-3 18, Dawson Snyder 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 5-10 40.
Clearfield – 46
Ryan Gearhart 3 2-2 8, Cole Miller 8 1-1 22, Isakk Way 1 0-1 2, Andon Greslick 2 0-2 6, Luke Pallo 2 4-4 8, Nate Natoli 0 0-0 0, Nick Collins 0 0-0 0, Caleb Wilt 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 16 7-10 46.
Three-Point Shots; Whitehead/Miller-5, Greslick-2
Foul Out: Desimone/Way
Officials: Todd Parker, Dave Hime, Shawn Albright