ALLPORT — One of the most anticipated games in this early 2021-2022 basketball season finally was on the docket Wednesday night. Inside the West Branch Area High School, the Warrior Gymnasium played host as Nate Glunt and the unbeaten Clearfield Bison were ready to face off against a fast-paced and tough West Branch Warrior squad, led by coach Danny Clark.
What was a highly anticipated shootout was just that early, but the Bison were soon able to take advantage of missed shots, and forcing turnovers in transition, to upend the home squad, 54-39, to keep their unbeaten season intact.
Despite the win, Glunt admitted that his team played hard, but didn’t play as effective against the Warrior zone as he hoped.
“Anytime you get a chance to win here, it’s big. Danny always has his kids ready to play, and did a fantastic job with their game plan. We buckled down and played better defense in the second quarter,” he said. “But, it wasn’t a pretty game to watch. I have to do a better job to get us prepared against some of these looks and defenses we’re seeing.
“We were not fully prepared, and that is completely my fault. But give credit to our kids, as they made some shots, found some gaps, and were able to keep playing hard as the defense kept us in the game.”
The changing defense of the Warriors made it an early challenge in the opening quarter, as their triangle-2 zone and the box-1 look caused some trouble early for Clearfield. The two squads would go back and forth in the quarter, swapping the lead, and keeping it close. After the first quarter, Clearfield held a slight 12-11 lead, with three of their five starters accounting for points.
What changed in the second quarter, as Glunt stated, was the open looks and tough defense.
Clearfield managed to out-rebound the Warriors in the second stanza on both ends of the court, while defensively they forced errant shots from the outside, which began frustrating Clark and the team. Overall, West Branch only went 2-for-14 from behind the arc, and were not pulling down boards, plus turning the ball over which led to fast breaks. Clark would burn through two timeouts in a two-minute span, trying to get his team to focus and put points on the board. But, following the second of the timeouts in the quarter, his frustration once the teams broke the huddle did not go unnoticed by the officials, who promptly called a sideline warning on the home squad.
On the opposite end, Clearfield’s defense finished the quarter by only giving up a single field goal, that coming from Isaac Tiracorda, and headed into the locker room with a double-digit lead, 28-15.
“I do have to get us playing better in the first quarter,” Glunt said of his team’s defense. “The kids are playing hard, but you also have to get a feel for what the other team is going to do. We’ve watched West Branch, they only play against zone (defense), so we don’t really know what they are going to do to get a feel for it in the first quarter. A lot of these teams, we don’t have film on them against looks we’re going to give them.
“We try to feel out the first quarter, see what they try to do, and the kids make adjustments from there. I have to do a much better job to get us ready against these defenses that are not traditional defenses we face.”
Despite the early difficulties, by the second half Clearfield settled in and understood what West Branch was giving them, and used momentum and getting every player involved to extend the lead even more.
Three players would finish in double figures for the Bison, as Cole Miller put up a game-high 16 points, while Ryan Gearhart added in 14 more, along with five assists. Overall, it was Isakk Way who had the most complete game for the Bison, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, plus four steals.
West Branch saw Tiracorda be the lone scorer in double figures, draining 15 points while also getting a pair of steals.
By the time the final quarter began, Clark was out of timeouts and could only hope his team could find a way to put up points to make the game tighter than the scoreboard indicated. His Warriors would outscore the Bison in the final frame, 13-11, however could not overcome the early struggles in the first half, dropping to 2-3 on the season.
Clearfield also bested West Branch in the junior varsity contest, 47-40.
Glunt’s team has been solid through the first quarter of the season, and he credits that to how hard the team prepares each day, saying, “they grind it out at practice, and our practices are not easy. You have to practice a certain way in order to be ready to play, and our kids respond and compete hard against each other.”
Sitting at 6-0, Glunt and his team can head into the holiday break feeling good about where they are at, but also find themselves still needing to work on a few things before their next game. That will come as part of Clearfield’s participation in the Cambria Heights Holiday Tournament, and the Bison will open the tournament in the first game on Monday, December 27, when they face the Blue Pirates of Williamsburg. Tip off will come at 3:30 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 12 16 14 12 – 54
West Branch 11 4 11 13 – 39
Clearfield – 54
Ryan Gearhart 6 2-2 14, Cole Miller 6 0-0 16, Isakk Way 5 0-0 12, Andon Greslick 2 0-2 4, Luke Pallo 1 0-0 3, Nate Natoli 0 0-0 0, Nick Collins 0 1-2 1, Caleb Wilt 1 2-2 4, Kai Lynch 0 0-0 0, Justin Fletcher 0 0-0 0, Adam Miller 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 21 5-8 54.
West Branch – 39
Joel Evans 2 0-0 4, Jackson Croyle 2 1-2 6, Isaac Tiracorda 5 4-9 15, Zach 4 0-0 8, Kyle Kolesar 0 6-6 6, Owen Koleno 0 0-0 0, Zach McGonigal 0 0-0 0, Lucas Colton 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 13 11-17 39.
Three-Point Shooting: Miller-4, Way-2, Pallo/Croyle, I. Tiracorda