CURWENSVILLE – Curwensville Area High School boys basketball coach Matt Wassil couldn\’t have asked for a much better opening performance than he got from the Golden Tide Wednesday night.
Balanced scoring, with four players in double figures, aggressive man-to-man defense all over the floor and what may prove to be a rare rebounding advantage added up to a solid 64-47 win over Moshannon Valley League Glendale rival in Patton Hall.
Deciding which was most impressive was difficult for Wassil, who begins his third season with junior playmaker Ben McGary the lone returning starter among his five letterman.
His choice was the way the Golden Tide, which never trailed, hustled and scrapped on defense against a team that had four returning starters and two other letterwinners, albeit from a 5-19 season.
\”We were real impressed with our kids defensively,\” Wassil said. \”Anyone who read our preview for the year (knows) we have to depend on defense and quickness because we don\’t have a lot of height.
\”Tonight, our kids bought into our man-to-man defense, did exactly what we asked them, game-plan wise, to stop their guards from penetrating, because we know Glendale has some good guards. They can hurt you if you\’re not tight with them.
As a team, we played great defense, but, boy, Ben McGary and David Kalgren really locked down well on their guards. I think that was a real key.\”
McGary found Derek Dixon open under the basket for the first of his five assists, and junior Joey Palmer made it 4-0 with a putback before Ethan Hullihen swished a three-pointer from outside, but that was as close as the Vikings would get.
Hullihen was the only Glendale starter on the scoreboard in the first period, but freshman Ethan Cree came off the bench to score inside three times, one on a putback, and prevent an early Curwensville runaway.
Dixon\’s driving, reverse lay-up and six points from sophomore reserves Sam Gardner and Jed Greslick turned the Golden Tide\’s 17-10 lead after one quarter into a 25-12 bulge with 4:41 left in the half.
Three consecutive field goals by Cree in the next minute got coach Gregg Mazenko\’s Vikings back into it, and they went to intermission down only 31-25.
However, Curwensville came out and finished strong in the second half, thanks to a 21-6 advantage on the boards with Dixon, Palmer and Kalgren getting the job done.
\”In the first half we weren\’t very pleased, and we talked to the kids about that, and we challenged them,\” Wassil said. \”We are actually a little bit bigger than this team, and that\’s not going to happen very often. We felt if we really boxed out and fundamentally were sound rebounding, we should be okay.
\”In fact, coach (Shane) challenged Dixon. He said, \’Your guy gets no offensive rebounds this half. That’s your goal.\’
\”All the guys stepped up to that, and we really did have a solid second half rebounding. In fact, we told the kids that might have been the best rebounding half we’ve ever seen in the two-plus years I’ve been here.\”
Glendale did get within four points two times early in the third quarter before Curwensville gradually pulled away to a 49-38 lead behind nine points by senior Ryan Gardner, including a three from the left corner.
Dixon pretty much settled the issue with nine points in the first 2:08 of the fourth quarter on a peep off a McGary feed, a putback that resulted in three points and another reverse lay-up.
The much-improved junior led the Golden Tide with 15 points.
\”The first half, I think Derek was a little bit nervous,\” Wassil said. \”It seemed like he wasn\’t catching the ball inside and was fumbling some of those rebounds. This is his first game as a starter and really his first varsity action that actually was meaningful.
\”In the second half, he really stepped up for us, both rebounding and scoring inside. We didn\’t know how much inside scoring we’d even get out of our guys, and Derek really stepped up tonight.\”
Kalgren tallied 13 points, while the Gardner brothers added 11 apiece as the Golden Tide canned 28 of 56 shots for an outstanding 48.3 percentage.
\”Any time you can put four guys double figures, that\’s going to be tough to compete against,\” Wassil said. \”\”To be honest, it\’s somewhat shocking, because we didn\’t know who we were going to get our scoring from this year. And even after tonight, we still might not know, because we get the sense that each game it could be different guys, just based on the type of defense the other team plays and the type of match-ups we have.
\”That could work to our advantage, too, because I don’t think teams are going to be able to key on one guy.\”
Cree finished with a game-high 18 points for the 1-2 Vikings, who actually enjoyed a good shooting game, too, 19-for-45 for 42.2 percent. They had 21 turnovers, three more than the Golden Tide.
Curwensville returns to action Friday at St. Marys against Elk County Catholic in its Allegheny Mountain League opener.
Cree scored 23 points and Tyler Jenny netted 13 in the Glendale junior varsity\’s 49-18 win. Tyler Johns and Ben Johnson each had six points for Curwensville.
GLENDALE — 47
Sam Yingling 3 2-2 8, Brett Hullihen 0 0-2 2, Brock Kauffman 2 0-0 4, Ethan Hullihen 2 1-2 6, Vance Kimberly 2 3-4 7, Ethan Cree 8 2-4 18, Tyler Jenny 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 19 8-14 47.
CURWENSVILLE — 64
Ryan Gardner 5 0-0 11, Ben McGary 2 0-0 5, David Kalgren 6 0-1 13, Joey Palmer 3 1-2 7, Derek Dixon 7 1-1 15, Sam Gardner 5 1-2 11, Jed Greslick 0 2-2 2, Tyler Johns 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 28 5-8 64.
Score by Quarters:
Glendale 10 15 13 9 – 47
Curwensville 17 14 18 15 – 64
Three-Point Field Goals: Glendale 1 (E. Hullihen); Curwensville 3 (R. Gardner, McGary, Kalgren).
Officials: Lee Martell, Marvin Martell.