HYDE — A packed parking lot at the Clearfield Area Junior/Senior High School is normally seen from the early morning until early afternoon, as kids come to and from class. But, the parking lot was packed in a big way for those that were craving some round-ball action. The Bison Gymnasium was packed to the walls, and the Clearfield Bison basketball squad was hyped up as they got to play host to the team they played last year in the District 8/9 play-in game, the Eagles from Obama Academy of International Studies.
The night started not with a tip-off, but free throws. A pre-game technical foul on the visiting Eagles because of dunking during the warmups meant an early pair of points for Clearfield. After that, the night would go from ultimate highs, then lows, emotion and anxiety. In 32 minutes, the game would get tied up, swap leads, and at the end of regulation, neither side had an edge. Overtime was needed in this one, and it too came down to the wire. The final opportunity seemed to fall right where the Bison wanted, but in the end on the final shot, the final gasp, the visiting Eagles pulled off a 59-58 stunner on the Bison home court, silencing the loudest crowd ever to be inside the gymnasium.
“Give our kids credit. We were down seven points with under two minutes to go in regulation, and we just kept battling,” a rather dejected Nate Glunt said afterwards. “They never quit, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of them.”
Clearfield’s night started simple enough, as officials would call the technical foul during warm ups after a pair of dunks. One was a warning, but the second one meant the Bison would get a pair of uncontested free throws, and also would be allowed the opening possession.
Cole Miller made both shots, and ultimately added the next as Clearfield went out to an early 5-0 lead. But, the Eagles began to come back as Teyron Wofford slowed the pace, hitting a jumper in the lane, and then suddenly draining a three-pointer from range that Steph Curry would be proud of. The Bison kept things close through the first quarter, battling back-and-forth, but found themselves down by a lone possession, 11-9.
The second quarter did not always have the best moments for the Bison, nor for that matter the Eagles, but the two would battle tight, and smart, going shot-for-shot, as Clearfield won the quarter, going into the halftime break down by just one, 21-20.
The biggest difficulty the Bison had all night were rebounds, not in they weren’t battling for them, but more securing them to prevent second-chance opportunities.
“Nothing against us, because they (Obama Academy) crashed the boards hard. They went after the ball, made tough shots, and went after the ball every chance,” Glunt said afterwards.
The third quarter is when Clearfield began to change things around, crashing harder on the boards, but also saw Miller start getting hot, as he would account for seven of the 11 points for the Bison. The energy with every shot, including a big three-pointer from the baseline ignited the entire crowd. The opposing coaches were upset at certain points, either with officials and their foul calls or at some of the defense, and yet somehow the Bison would come back and knot the game up at 31-all heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Passport radio host Pat Pallo, who also is on the coaching staff for the Bison, commented that it was a 0-0 game at that moment, and it was who wanted it more.
Apparently both teams wanted it bad because both were putting on a shooting frenzy in the final quarter. At one point, the Bison would get the lead by a possession, 40-39. But, a run of buckets from Wofford and Seth Small suddenly made the score 47-40. But, the team would not go away easily as suddenly another massive three-pointer from Miller, who finished the night with a game-high 28 points, cut the lead down to four. Then Ryan Gearhart would get a big bucket, cutting the lead again.
Still, the Eagles would not go away, as Small on the opposite end put the game in his hands, putting down a three from the left wing, putting the score back to 50-46.
Miller then hit one of his 1-and-1 shots to bring the Bison within a single possession, leaving the score at 50-48.
Gearhart then hit the biggest shot of his career in the waning seconds, the jumper from right in the paint went down, tying the game up at 50-all, and as the Eagles took the inbounds pass they managed to get just across mid-court before calling the final timeout. The focus then was to just hold to one shot, and somehow Wofford got a look on the wing, a circus shot that would hit the backboard as the buzzer went off, meaning more basketball was on tap for the night.
With an extra timeout to each team, four minutes on the clock, and a couple players having to be careful with fouls, the night would finally get a tip-off as it was Luke Pallo facing Torrian Perkins, and Pallo not only climbed the ladder, he hit a spring to launch the ball into orbit and into the hands of Isakk Way. The opening possession in overtime managed to fall the way of the Bison as Pallo worked to the paint to get the bucket. On the opposite end, Small managed to get the shot off to tie it back up. Clearfield then hit back-to-back buckets courtesy of Miller and Andon Greslick, taking a quick four-point advantage.
The Eagles battled back as Perkins put up a bucket plus drained one of two free throws, putting the score at 56-55. Clearfield got two more points each from Gearhart and Greslick to make it 58-55, but as the Bison battled on Perkins went to the line for a pair of late free throws in the final minute.
With the entire crowd in a frenzied roar, something that one would hear at the Bryce Jordan Center in a Big Ten game, he would drain both to make the score 58-57.
Seconds were winding down, and the final timeout of the night came with just 8.4 seconds remaining. The sideline focus for both teams was the final shot, as in getting the shot off for Obama Academy, and contesting the shot for Clearfield.
The inbounds pass would go to Small, who then managed to find Wofford on the baseline for the trey.
The ball would go long, but in the battle for the rebound Xzavier Rodgers managed to grab it and put the shot up with just enough time still on the clock before the buzzer. The ball bounced on the rim, and went in with less than a second to go, and suddenly the buzzer sounded. The visiting team clad in black celebrated the buzzer-beater shot, while the stunned crowd wearing red, black and white stood in disbelief as the squads came together at midcourt for the handshake. Looking up at the CNB scoreboard, the 59-58 final saw an incredible year come to a dramatic close.
For Obama Academy, Small led the scoring with 20 points, with Rodgers adding in another 10 plus five rebounds and a trio of assists.
Along with his 28 points, Miller pulled down eight boards plus accounted for six assists. Gearhart finished in double figures with 21 points, five boards, three assists and a block.
Clearfield’s season came to a close with a final record of 14-10, but in doing so, they achieved an eighth consecutive District IX championship, and a 1000-point scorer that still has a season left of eligibility. It’s the eighth consecutive season for Glunt with a winning record, and it also is a year that saw the season start and finish without much delay from weather, or from the pandemic. As Glunt prepared to head to the locker room to address his team one final time, knowing eight of his players were graduating, he felt a sense of pride, because of how the community rallied around the team and supported the student-athletes.
“We have an awesome community supporting us,” he said. “What an amazing atmosphere here tonight, and all season. Tonight, it was absolutely the loudest I have ever heard this gymnasium. What an absolutely awesome crowd.”
Obama Academy will move on into the next round of playoffs as they will host Mount Vernon.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Obama Academy 11 10 10 19 9 – 59
Clearfield 9 11 11 19 8 – 58
Obama Academy – 59
Xzavier Rodgers 3 4-5 10, Bryce Carter 2 0-0 4, Eric Shoen 1 0-0 2, Teyron Wofford 6 0-0 14, Seth Small 9 0-0 20, Torrien Perkins 3 3-4 9, Keavon Harris 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 24 7-9 59.
Clearfield – 58
Ryan Gearhart 7 6-8 21, Cole Miller 9 6-7 28, Isakk Way 1 0-1 2, Andon Greslick 1 1-2 3, Luke Pallo 1 0-2 2, Nate Natoli 1 0-0 2, Nick Collins 0 0-0 0, Caleb Wilt 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 20 15-20 58.
Three-Point Shots: Wofford-2, Small-2/Gearhart, Miller-4
Technical Fouls: Obama Academy (pre-game)