HYDE — The early season hopes for the Clearfield Bison round-ballers has lived up to the hype in different ways. Through two games, the team has seen times of dominance, frustration, power, and tenacity. With the two opening wins under their belt, the Bison returned to their home court of the Bison Gym ready to keep riding their winning ways. On the opposite side of the court, a familiar foe in the Flying Dutchmen of St. Marys were ready to take flight on the hardwood.
At certain times, the Bison looked flustered, but for 48 minutes there was one certainty, that being they are looking for an eighth straight District IX championship. Clearfield had an easy time all night long, securing a 64-39 win that was a complete-team effort.
“You know, we had early struggles last night (against P-O), but we got in an early rhythm here and that is a big difference,” head coach Nate Glunt said afterwards. “Coach (Bill) Shuey has his kids ready to play every night, and even at one point when we were up double-digits, they just didn’t quit. But we started finding our rhythm, Cole (Miller) started hitting some shots, RG (Ryan Gearhart) was getting good penetration, and we fed off that.”
St. Marys got the first bucket of the night, but that was the only time they would hold the lead. Shortly after, the Bison began hitting key buckets, as Miller hit a pair of treys while Gearhart got a contested layup along with the ensuing foul shot, to get Clearfield ahead. But, a bit later in the quarter, starter Luke Pallo would come out and be substituted in with Nate Natoli. Shortly after, he would walk over to the trainer, not exactly looking injured, but not looking 100%.
Glunt mentioned that it seemed he was having back problems, but what it did give was one of the bench rotation players some valuable playing time, and Natoli made the most of it. Although he did not score any points, he made some key assists to his teammates, and also made key passes when the ball was in his hands.
“That’s something we’ve wanted from our starting rotation, and Nate absolutely played a phenomenal game,” Glunt said. “He came in a rather tough spot, but gave us really good minutes. Then Nick Collins coming in, getting some huge steals, and Caleb Wilt also had some great minutes tonight.”
The bench played a key role in the majority of the first half, as the Bison held a 33-14 lead heading into halftime. Then in the third quarter, Miller put the game away as he drained 12 of his game-high 25 points in the frame, and no one on the St. Marys sidelines, nor hardwood, had an answer. Miller was joined by Gearhart and Isakk Way in hitting double figures, adding 10 and 12 points, respectively. Way and Collins each added in a quartet of steals, while Gearhart led the Bison with five assists.
The fourth quarter saw a running clock go into effect, and by that point Glunt substituted his second-team players to finish it out, while still getting baskets and takeaways.
“I think the biggest thing for us right now, early on, is we’re playing unselfish,” Glunt said. “Obviously, as you’ve seen, Cole and Ryan are going to have their nights. But, when everyone is contributing in their own way, that is what wins games. These kids are very intelligent, and have good people around them.”
For the Dutchmen, Tanner Fox paced the team with 12 points, but struggles from the floor made it a challenge as St. Marys finished 15-for-38 on the night.
Clearfield held on in the opening junior varsity contest, taking the 43-40 win despite St. Marys getting one last open look from the far baseline that would rattle off the rim.
Each game the Bison have played has seen a different type of contest. Curwensville saw a fast-paced contest, which Clearfield got an early lead and played to strengths, while Philipsburg-Osceola played down to the wire with foul shooting becoming critical late going. The Dutchmen presented another type of challenge, and for Glunt that is something that he knows is coming with every game. But, at the same time, he’s consistently coached his team to be better than the day before, and he made that clear as he already was in the mindset of what they have to do for the next game.
“We just have to get better at what we are already doing,” he said. “We played unselfish tonight, and that we can build on. We just have to keep getting better, and that is all I can ask for.”
Clearfield (3-0) will get their first taste of being on the road for a game this Thursday as they will travel to Hollidaysburg for a 6 p.m. tip-off for the junior varsity, with the varsity contest to follow.
SCORE BY QUARTER
St. Mary’s 7 7 9 16 – 39
Clearfield 18 15 18 13 – 64
St. Mary’s – 39
Tanner Fox 5 0-0 12, Matthew Davis 0 0-0 0, Anthony Nedzinski 1 0-0 2, Lucas Bauer 0 0-0 0, Tyler Mitchell 0 0-2 0, Quinn Gavazzi 3 0-1 7, Charlie Coudreit 2 1-2 5, Grayson Spangler 0 2-2 2, Hunter Hetrick 2 0-0 4, Ryan Bille 0 0-0 0, Zach Thorwart 1 0-0 3, Dan Schutz 1 2-2 4, Brandon Clyde 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 15 5-9 39.
Clearfield – 64
Ryan Gearhart 3 4-4 10, Cole Miller 9 2-2 25, Isakk Way 5 0-2 12, Andon Greslick 2 0-0 4, Luke Pallo 0 0-0 0, Nate Natoli 0 0-0 0, Nick Collins 1 0-0 2, Caleb Wilt 1 1-2 4, Kam Kashner 0 0-0 0, Kai Lynch 2 0-0 4, Justin Fletcher 0 0-0 0, Braylen Way 1 0-0 3, Adam Miller 0 0-0 0, Eric Fletcher 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 24 7-10 64.
Three-Point Shots: Fox-2, Gavazzi, Thorwart/Miller-5, I. Way-2, Wilt, B. Way