CURWENSVILLE — A fast start, a solid rebounding advantage, challenging defense and a big lift to the offense from senior Kyle Johns were the keys as the Curwensville Area High School basketball team defeated West Branch 63-52 in a pivotal early-season Moshannon Valley League at Patton Hall Monday night.
The Golden Tide scored the first 10 points and owned a surprising 14-2 lead over the defending champions midway through the first quarter and never allowed the Warrior to get closer than six points the rest of the way.
“That’s a very big win,” Curwensville coach Shane Pentz stated. “They’ve won at least a share of the last three or four Moshannon Valley League championships, and we said coming into this game if we have any aspirations of competing for that at the end of the season, we have to take care of home court.”
“Our first quarter set the tone for the whole game.”
Especially the first 3:18.
Tanner Elensky nestled two deep threes into the nets that bookended a baby hook by Johns, that was a portent of things to come from him, and a steal for an uncontested layup by Brett Gardner.
“In the first two games of the year, we started a little slow,” Pentz pointed out. “The last couple games we’ve picked it up right from the opening tip and were able to provide the difference in the game in the first three minutes.”
West Branch, which still has most of the cast that swept through the MVL at 8-0 last season but was missing injured point guard Austin Krise, never completely recovered.
The Warriors, who got 29 points from standout Kody Trude, made a mini-run early in the second period to get within six, 23-17, but trailed 33-22 at halftime and faced their largest deficits of 15 points, 37-22 and 39-24, early in the second half before staging a comeback.
Kaiden Koch’s old-fashioned three-point play following a rare Warrior offensive rebound opened the fourth quarter scoring and narrowed the Golden Tide’s advantage to 41-34, but Johns answered with a jumper from the right elbow and Elensky fed Alex Olson for a peep.
West Branch (2-2) kept scrapping and applied some pressure by getting to within seven points on two other occasions, 49-42, and, with four minutes left, 51-44.
Curwensville kept its composure, though, and responded right away both times, first with Elensky’s steal for two and then two bunnies by Austin Jacobson off Gardner passes.
West Branch’s last gasp was Trude’s fourth three-pointer of the game that capped his 12-point fourth quarter and made it 60-51 with 1:09 to go.
However, the Warriors had to foul, and Elensky sealed the once-beaten Golden Tide’s third win with two free throws for the last of his team-high 18 points.
Johns exploded for 17 points after netting 14 in the first three outings and also grabbed eight rebounds, while Trey Rauckhorst contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.
“Before the game, we said we needed somebody other than Trey, Tanner and Brett to step up and provide some scoring, and tonight Kyle was that guy,” Pentz said. “17 points absolutely is the difference. That’s why we have our season high in points. Him being able to convert inside and find open spaces was huge.”
Johns tossed in three baby hooks, including back-to-back from the paint and on the right baseline in an eight-point run that put Curwensville ahead 31-17 late in the first half, and attacked the basket along the baseline as he cashed entry passes from his teammates.
“We’ve been working on some high-low offense, and tonight was the first time we were able to see it work effectively,” Pentz said. “Hopefully, that’s something we can utilize moving forward because we do have some size with Kyle and Trey. And Austin and Alex are good passers as well.”
Rauckhorst and Johns combined for more rebounds than the Warriors mustered as the Golden Tide controlled the boards 32-16.
“We said before the game, basically, the rebounding margin in our first three games has determined the final score, and it was again tonight,” Pentz said.
Joining Trude in double figures West Branch was Koch with 10 points.
Curwensville jumped out on defense to keep Mike Pennington, like Trude a three-point threat, in check.
“I thought we did a good job on Pennington, making him take tough looks,” Pentz noted. “Even Trude, a lot of those points came on contested shots. He’s a really good player, and he’s gonna get his points.
“Defensively, we were pretty pleased the way we played.”
Pentz was quick to credit Olson for his role on the back line.
“Alex is actually the quarterback of our defense because of the way he talks,” Pent said. “He’s the one guy that lets the rest of our defense know where guys are. He’s telling guys, ‘The shooter’s there, the shooter’s there.’”
“It was a team effort. Tanner and Kyle provided some scoring. Trey had another double-double. Brett was a little off offensively but was able to find shooters defensively. Austin was very aggressive. He might not show up on the stat sheet a whole lot, but he made a lot of little plays that we ended up scoring on. With eight points, that’s huge. And Jake Terry and Alex Hill went in and just helped handle the ball. We had very few turnovers from our back-ups, and that’s pretty big.”
Pentz knows the Golden Tide will be facing a different Warrior team the second time around when Krise is back running the offense.
“Having their starting point is gonna make an incredible difference, and we’re gonna have to be ready to play again,” he said.
In the prelim, the Golden Tide jayvees surged from behind in the second half to force overtime and went on to triumph 46-40 behind 17 points from Terry and 10 from Hill.
Curwensville wraps up its December schedule with road trips to Westover for an MVL game Thursday and to Kane for an Allegheny Mountain League South Division test.
WEST BRANCH — 52
Skyler Kruise 0 3-4 3, Mike Pennington 0 2-2 2, Kaiden Koch 4 2-2 10, Kody Trude 10 5-6 29, Nate Kerlin 4 0-0 8, Jesse Martin 0 0-0 0, Josh Kerlin 0 0-0 0, Trenton Ferguson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 12-14 52.
CURWENSVILLE — 63
Brett Gardner 2 1-2 5, Kyle Johns 8 1-2 17, Tanner Elensky 7 2-2 18, Trey Rauckhorst 6 1-2 13, Alex Olson 1 0-0 2, Austin Jacobson 4 0-0 8, Jake Terry 0 0-0 0, Alex Hill 0 0-0 0, Nate Kurtz 0 0-0 0, Jason Thorp 0 0-0 0, Bryce McClure 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 28 5-8 63.
Score by Quarters
West Branch 9 13 9 21 - 52
Curwensville 19 14 8 22 - 63
Officials – Rich Gormont and Jerry Carnicella.
Golden Tide Scoreboard:
|12/06||MO VALLEY||ppd.||0 – 0|
|12/09||@ Clearfield||56 – 38||1 – 0|
|12/10||BROCKWAY||54 – 51||2 – 0|
|12/13||@ Ridgway||25 – 46||2 – 1|
|12/16||WEST BRANCH||63 – 52||3 – 1|
|01/08||@ Mo Valley|
|01/14||@ Elk County|
|01/27||@ DuBois Central|
|02/05||ST. JOE’S ACADEMY|
|02/12||@ West Branch|