CLARION — It’s hard enough to win one championship on any level. It’s harder to win two, let alone three or more. Even icons in sports, like Michael Jordan and Tom Brady, know that every championship is hard to win, and winning multiple titles is never an easy task. But, for the Clearfield Bison cagers, the last eight years have seen them continue to back up the prior season’s District 9 championship. This year was no exception, as for a school record 10th-straight year, they would compete for a district title. On the opposing side of the court, the St. Marys Flying Dutchmen were ready to pull an upset.
The Dutchmen fan base came in big numbers to the Tippin Gymnasium on the campus of PennWest Clarion, the new name for Clarion University, as both the girls and guys made their respective district championships. After the girls fell late in the first game, the Dutchmen had more motivation to pull off the upset. But, on this night, the defense of Clearfield shut things down early, often, and quickly. That allowed the offense to get rolling from all over the court, and after 32 minutes the Bison would take home even more hardware with a 47-30 victory, and a record-setting ninth consecutive dsitrict title.
Bison head coach Nate Glunt acknowledged winning nine straight titles after the game, but in reality that was not the statistic that mattered to him. It was the here and now that he focused on.
“For us, it’s one in a row. Every year it’s different, and it’s a new team every time,” he said. “I’m just very fortunate to be blessed to coach so many great young men.”
As was expected, neither team started the game off in fast fashion. Clearfield had not been on the court in competition since their season-finale on February 15 against DuBois. The Dutchmen were on the court the week prior in the semifinal win against Punxsutawney, so both squads were showing a bit of rust in the opening quarter. It wouldn’t be until the five-minute mark when Clearfield’s Cole Miller finally would find his spot on the wing to drain the first bucket of the night, a three-ball to get Clearfield out to a lead. The Bison would get out to a 5-0 margin before St. Marys clawed back in to tie it with just over a minute remaining. With just seconds left in the quarter, Anthony Nedzinski caught a pass on the left wing to suddenly put Clearfield behind after one, 8-5.
That would ultimately be the only time the Dutchmen had the lead at any point in the game.
The second quarter belonged to Clearfield, especially defensively. The key for the Bison was trying to focus in on the Dutchmen’s leading scorer, Tanner Fox. Averaging 13 points a game, Fox would put up a quick bucket in the frame to increase the lead to two possessions. But, after that, Fox not only was not getting shots to go in the net, but would not get many looks to even attempt a basket.
St. Marys saw their leading scorer finish the night with just two points, and Glunt credited his team with being able to keep him in check for the entire game.
“Fox is an excellent player. Coach Quigley does a great job of putting a game plan in, they’re patient and take good shots,” he said. “For us to contain him like we did, that’s a big credit to our guys and how they played.”
By contrast, limiting those shots and also gaining valuable rebounds, quickly changed things for Clearfield. The second quarter saw the Bison get rolling in a big way, especially from deep range. Four shots would find the net from deep range, including a pair from Andon Greslick on the left baseline. Clearfield put up 16 points in the quarter, and headed into the locker room with a three-possession lead 21-12. The first half went extremely quickly as neither team would head to the foul line at any point, as both teams were playing disciplined ball.
The third quarter is when both St. Marys and Clearfield turned up the wick and the battle ensued.
Switching to a zone defense to keep the Bison from penetrating the paint only fueled the shooting from outside range. Miller would put up a pair of his four treys in the quarter, putting up nine of the squad’s 17 points in the quarter. At the same time, Clearfield’s defense would find trouble as they would have six fouls in eight minutes. It also was a quarter where freshman Braison Patrick, who has become a huge part of the Bison offense, would reach five personal fouls, and had to sit out the remaining 10 minutes of play.
Still, Clearfield out-scored the Dutchmen by three to head into the final eight minutes with a 38-26 lead.
Clearfield decided if St. Marys would play a zone to keep them from penetrating the paint, they instead would play keep away with the ball. For nearly three minutes, some hand-off passes would be what Clearfield did to try and get a lane to open up. At one point, almost in frustration, Cole Miller would stare down Fox and Nedzinski, pushing into the paint and right into the heart of the Dutchmen defense. He would fake a shot, turn, and hit a jumper that ignited the sideline, as though it was a dagger to the opposition. Miller would lead all scorers for the game, as the all-time leading scorer for Clearfield finished with 25 points. Greslick would add in another 11 points, joining Miller in double figures.
Miller had a strong night on both ends of the court, finishing just short of a double-double as he grabbed nine rebounds, plus added in five assists.
With just under a minute remaining, Glunt called a time out, seeing the game was well in hand and gave the rest of his main starting rotation a well-deserved curtain call, and let some of the younger players finish out the night to secure a ninth-straight district championship.
Glunt said afterwards that he was just a small part of the success that the Bison have seen the last 10 years. Ever since taking over the Bison coaching duties prior to the 2013-2014 season, Clearfield has gone to the district championship, the first three years in Class 3A, and the last seven in Class 4A. But, he made it clear that the supporting cast around him are the ones that deserve the most recognition of anyone.
“Our assistant coaches, they put so much time in. A lot of these players, they started with this program back in elementary school,” Glunt said. “I may be the guy talking to you now, but it really is an entire community with coaches, being able to use the YMCA, administrative support.
“To have success, it truly takes everybody.”
The success Clearfield (17-6) has achieved this season still has another chapter to be written. Up next on the schedule is the first round of PIAA playoffs. The Bison’s opponent will be the third place team out of District 7, either the Laurel Highlands Mustangs from Uniontown or the Highlands High School Golden Rams out of Natrona Heights. That game will be played on Friday March 5.
Clearfield will face the winner of that game next Friday, March 10. Tip-off time has yet to be determined, however the Bison will have an advantage as the game is being played on their home court in the Bison Gymnasium.
According to both the PIAA and District 9, tickets for the game will only be sold online and not at the door. This is subject to change, as more information will be made available once the full bracket is set.
SCORE BY QUARTER
St. Marys 8 4 14 4 – 30
Clearfield 5 16 17 9 – 47
St. Marys – 30
Tanner Fox 1 0-0 2, Anthony Nedzinski 2 4-5 9, Tyler Mitchell 1 0-0 2, Quin Gavazzi 2 1-1 6, Charlie Coudriet 3 0-1 6, Ben Paul 2 0-0 5, Matthew Davis 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 11 5-7 30.
Clearfield – 47
Parker Collins 0 0-0 0, Ev Maines 0 0-0 0, Luke Pallo 1 1-1 3 Kam Kushner 0 0-0 0, Kai Lynch 0 0-0 0, Braison Patrick 2 0-0 6, Andon Greslick 4 0-0 11, Anthony Lopez 0 0-0 0, Morgen Billotte 1 0-0 2, Braylen Way 0 0-0 0, Cole Miller 8 5-6 25. TOTALS 16 6-7 47.
- Shooting: 11-38/16-32
- Rebounds: 15/22
- Fouls: 9/10
- Turnovers: 5/7
- Three-Point Shots: Nedzinski, Gavazzi, Paul/Patrick-2, Greslick-3, Miller-4
- Foul Out: Patrick
GAME OFFICIALS: Bud Bifano, Pick Zimbardi, Joe D. Gregorio
Date Opponent Score Record
12/02 @ Curwensville 56 – 39 1 – 0
12/07 @ Philipsburg-Osceola 53 – 49 2 – 0
12/09 @ Punxsutawney 42 – 47 2 – 1
12/15 HOLLIDAYSBURG ppd. 2 – 1
12/19 @ Bald Eagle Area 34 – 50 2 – 2
12/21 WEST BRANCH 64 – 59 3 – 2
12/27&28 @ Cambria Heights Tourney
12/27 vs. Williamsburg 61 – 37 4 – 2
12/28 vs. Cambria Heights 51 – 41 5 – 2
01/03 TYRONE 61 – 59 6 – 2
01/05 @ Bellefonte 46 – 43 7 – 2
01/09 @ Huntingdon 45 – 40 8 – 2
01/12 PENNS VALLEY 55- 26 9 – 2
01/17 PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA 40 – 43 9 – 3
01/20 @ Hollidaysburg 51 – 69 9 – 4
01/24 BALD EAGLE AREA 49 – 39 10 – 4
01/27 @ Tyrone 39 – 76 10 – 5
01/31 BELLEFONTE 49 – 62 10 – 6
02/02 HOLLIDAYSBURG 66 – 50 11 – 6
02/03 HUNTINGDON 65 – 50 12 – 6
02/07 @ Penns Valley 43 – 35 13 – 6
02/09 DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 65 – 52 14 – 6
02/14 CURWENSVILLE 69 – 39 15 – 6
02/15 DUBOIS 59 – 55 16 – 6
03/02 D9 AAAA Finals vs. St. Marys 47 – 30 17 – 6
03/10 PIAA First Round Game, TBD