Golden Tide Celebrates Signature Victory Over Bison, 52-48
CURWENSVILLE — Tough losses have outnumbered wins for the Curwensville Area High School cagers this season.
Still, the Golden Tide has enjoyed some special moments, beating DuBois Central Catholic for the first time since 1997 and winning at Harmony for the first time since 2001.
It’s the third signature win they’ll savor the most, though.
That was evident by the mini-celebration at their bench immediately after the buzzer punctuated a well-deserved 52-48 victory over backyard rival Clearfield in Patton Hall Monday night.
No Golden Tide team had experienced that since Dec. 4, 2001.
“I’m proud of all the kids,” second-year coach Shane Pentz said after Curwensville’s fifth win in 20 games atoned for a 42-37 loss at Clearfield in the season opener. “They wanted this game pretty badly. They’ve been talking about it for a couple weeks. We don’t play Clearfield as much as we used to, but it’s still a rivalry game.
“To both teams’ credit, they gave everything they had. And we were just lucky enough to come out on the positive end of it.”
Bison coach Forrest Campman lauded his team’s effort, too.
“I thought the kids played hard, and they played together,” he said. “In my opinion, there were just way too many unforced turnovers.”
The Clearfield (5-14) rotation took a hit when forward Jon Janocko went down with a serious ankle injury late in the first half.
“When Janocko got hurt, we were down to playing six guys,” Campman said. “If a couple guys were struggling, there was really nowhere to turn.
“But our perimeter shooting was not good. You have to make more shots.”
Both teams shot 30 percent, the outcome hinging on Curwensville’s edges of 5-2 in three-pointers and 17-12 at the foul line.
Juniors Brett Gardner, Tanner Elensky and Kyle Johns combined for all but seven of the Golden Tide points and took turns providing the sparks, offensively.
Gardner came out on fire with 11 of his career-high 21 points in the first quarter, pumping up the Golden Tide and its fans in the large crowd by draining a trio of three-pointers that turned a five-point deficit into a 12-7 lead the hosts would never lose.
Elensky helped keep the Bison in the Golden Tide’s rearview mirror with seven points in the second period. He finished with 10 while working extremely hard to beat Clearfield’s full-court press.
Kyle Johns came on strong in the second half with 11 points to end up with a season-high 14. Seven came in the hectic fourth quarter as the Golden Tide staved off a relentless Bison rally.
The big guns for Clearfield were senior Trey Jordan and junior Christian Lezzer with 20 and 12 points, respectively.
Jordan came off the bench to give the Bison instance offense, bracketing Seth Beardsley’s triple with soaring lay-ups off a strong drive and a steal for their 7-2 start.
Gardner changed the complexion of the non-league game in the next two minutes, blistering the nets from long range three times.
“Brett really kick-started us,” Pentz said. “He was awfully hot in the first half. Any open look he got was good.”
Elensky penetrated the Bison zone to find Johns open for two and followed up by knifing all the way to the hoop to give Curwensville a 16-10 lead at the first turn.
He opened the second period with a bonus shot from the left wing and sank two free throws for the largest spread of the first half, 21-10.
Old-fashioned three-point plays by sophomore reserve Erik Sellers and Lezzer enabled the Bison to keep the Golden Tide in sight, 26-22, before Gardner’s final trifecta made it 29-22 at intermission.
With Clearfield unable to pry the lid off the basket in the third quarter, lay-ups by Lezzer and Seth Ford the only makes in 14 attempts, Curwensville padded the margin to 13 points, 42-29. Trey Rauckhorst contributed a peep and two big free throws to back Gardner’s final five points and Johns’ pair of buckets in the paint.
Jordan went off for 10 points, all at the rim on drives and putbacks, to spur the Bison comeback in the fourth quarter.
The visitors made it a one-possession game, 46-43, with 4:44 remaining when Beardsley nailed his second three-pointer and the press paid dividends, Jordan dishing to Sellers and then converting an offensive rebound.
Johns ended the mini-run at the charity stripe, making both shots for the second time in the quarter.
Nearly two minutes later, he restored the five-point lead at 50-45 with an eight-foot jump hook, perhaps the biggest shot of the game.
“Kyle really has come along offensively the last two or three weeks,” Pentz said. “He’s the reason we’ve won been some games.
“We talked at halftime (that) Brett and Tanner had scored almost all our points and we needed somebody to step up in the second half. Tonight, it was Kyle.
“For Tanner not to have any points in the second half and Brett not to score in the fourth quarter, that means some other guys stepped up.”
Curwensville had alternated wins and losses in its last six outings, and this one wasn’t in the hopper until soph Harrison Bloom tossed in the back end of a two-shot trip to the foul line with 12.5 seconds remaining.
Five missed shots and two giveaways prevented Clearfield from tightening the screws even more in the final two minutes, but the Bison did cut it to 50-48 on Jordan’s foul shot with a minute to go and Ford’s lay-up 10 seconds later after a Golden Tide turnover.
The Bison still were one shot away from forcing overtime when Alex Olson made the first of his two free throws with 20.8 ticks left following a Bison turnover initiated by Rauckhorst.
However, Bloom grabbed the rebound off a Clearfield miss and sealed it with his clutch foul shot.
Curwensville was 8-for-16 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and 17-for-29 overall.
“They went to the foul line a heck of a lot more than we did, but our foul shooting (12-for-20) wasn’t good,” Campman said. “There’s something you need to be better to win. So, if we shoot foul shoots a little better… Obviously, three or four of those unforced turnovers, if we get some shots off, that’s a two- or four-point difference. We just missed some shots we needed to make.
“Defensively, I thought we created a lot of trouble for them in the second half. In the first half, we didn’t execute real well and gave Gardner open shots. I’ve got to give him credit. He shot lights out.”
Gardner, hustling all over the floor, made it a terrific overall-performance with six steals, four rebounds and two assists.
“That’s great defensively,” Pentz reacted to the steal stat. “In the second half, he made a couple and was going the other way, and we were able to get easy points on it. Also, I don’t think he had many turnovers at all.
“And Clearfield, they were running pressure defense all over the floor the whole second half, and I thought our guards took very good care of the ball.
“Lezzer, Jordan and Beardsley are three very athletic kids. And when they start trapping and pressuring like they were doing, it’s tough to deal with. To our kids’ credit, we didn’t turn the ball over too often.”
Curwensville had 19 turnovers, four less than Clearfield.
The Golden Tide also got the better of the boardwork, outrebounding the Bison 29-25 with Austin Jacobson snaring eight.
“We tried to make sure that between our three guys low in the zone, two of them boxed out Lezzer and Jordan every time,” Pentz said. “If we get in a jumping contest with those kids, we’re gonna lose. We have to make sure we make contact, and our back line did a great job with that.
“Olson did a great job of boxing out. On the weak side, when they missed, he was very key to getting some rebounds. Johns, Rauckhorst and Jacobson, for the most part, all did a very good job.
“Give credit to both teams. They really played hard down to the end.”
Andy Brown scored 11 points and Erik Sellers added eight as the Bison junior varsity triumphed 31-27. Harrison Bloom had 15 points for the Golden Tide.
Clearfield has two more bus rides, Tuesday to Philipsburg-Osceola and Thursday to Huntingdon, before hosting Penns Valley in its finale Friday. All are Mountain League games; the latter two are make-ups of postponements.
Curwensville closes the season with a trip to Kane Tuesday for the make-up of Friday’s Allegheny Mountain League cross-over snowout and a home appearance against Moshannon Valley League champion West Branch Wednesday.
CLEARFIELD — 48
Christian Lezzer 3 6-10 12, Seth Beardsley 2 0-0 6, Wyatt Westen 0 1-2 1, Jon Janocko 0 0-0 0, Seth Ford 2 0-0 4, Trey Jordan 8 4-7 20, Erik Sellers 2 1-1 5. TOTALS: 17 12-20 48.
CURWENSVILLE — 52
Brett Gardner 8 1-3 21, Kyle Johns 4 6-10 14, Tanner Elensky 2 5-6 10, Alex Olson 0 1-4 1, Austin Jacobson 0 1-2 1, Trey Rauckhorst 1 2-2 4, Harrison Bloom 0 1-1 1, Nate Kurtz 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 15 17-29 52.
Three-Point Field Goals – Clearfield 2 (Beardsley 2); Curwensville 5 (Gardner 4, Elensky).
Score by Quarters
Clearfield 10 12 7 19 - 48
Curwensville 16 13 13 10 - 52
Referees – Brian Smeal and Kenny Knepp.