HYDE – A furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Clearfield Area High School boys basketball team fell short Monday night as visiting Central hung on for a 54-52 win on the Weiss Gym hardwood.
The Bisons, beaten 50-35 in their first Mountain League trip to Martinsburg on Dec. 16, were trailing by that same margin after three periods before Robbie Myers fueled their rally with 10 of his 19 points.
The junior pivotman sunk pairs of free throws around Andrew Redden’s third three-pointer to make it 49-39 midway through the quarter.
His putback and Christian Lezzer’s steal and layup finally lowered the deficit into single digits at 51-43 with 2:57 remaining.
The combination of Clearfield’s pressure defense and Central’s five missed foul shots continued to create scoring opportunities for the Bisons, who really got their fans excited by extending their run to 11-0.
Lezzer’s three-pointer from the left corner and Myers’ tip-in cut the Scarlet Dragon lead to 51-48 with 1:04 left.
Jack Mellgard then turned in back-to-back outstanding plays on both ends of the court. After creating a turnover by forcing a Scarlet Dragon to dribble out of bounds on the sideline, the senior point guard rifled a pass from the top of the key to Myers in the low post. Myers spun to his left for a lay-up, and the Bisons were within one point, 51-50 with 45 seconds to play.
Matt Ritchey came through in the clutch for Central 10 seconds later by calmly swishing a 10-foot jumper along the left baseline.
“He misses that, I think we’re winning the game,” Clearfield coach Forrest Campman said. “Give that kid credit. He played an outstanding ball game.”
Two Bisons had open looks for three-pointers that would have tied it up before Ritchey, who had a game-high 24 points, was fouled and sealed it for the Scarlet Dragons with a free throw with 12.3 seconds left.
He missed the second try, and Mellgard set the final with a difficult shot on a driving lay-up with 7.2 seconds remaining.
Clearfield was unable to foul as time expired on the in-bounds pass, leaving the dejected Bisons 4-14 with a 2-6 ML-Allegheny Division record.
“We made a good comeback, but the bottom line is, if we score 50 points, we should win,” Campman said. “We have been playing better offense the last week or so, and I thought we played great defense for the last two weeks. I don’t think we played well defensively tonight. I thought we were a step slow, not anticipating the pass and getting caught underneath the basket a little bit.
“We shouldn’t give a team over 50 points, but that team was hot. They just shot lights out.”
The Scarlet Dragons, 10-9 after their sixth consecutive win, were red-hot against the Bisons’ 1-3-1 matchup zone in the first half, nailing 11 of 17 shots for 64.7 percent.
They were 7-for-11 from behind the arc, with Ritchey, Pat Schon and Austin Cunningham knocking down two apiece, and the threes were the big reason Central (10-9, 4-4 ML) led 33-25 at intermission.
“It sort of forced us to get overextended defensively, and they took advantage,” Campman said. “We’re better when we don’t get too overextended out there.”
Ritchey was the main beneficiary as he bombed threes from the corners and burned the Bisons with short jumpers along the left baseline.
“Those are tough shots, and he seemed to make every one of them,” Campman said.
Central, which wound up 19-for-35 for 54.3 percent from the floor with nine three-pointers, controlled the pace most of the third quarter in padding its lead to 47-32.
“They answered every run we made for three quarters,” Campman noted. “The fourth quarter was a combination of they were trying to hold the ball more and we’re turning them over.
“We had them on the ropes a couple times. We probably should have had that game back to even with two minutes to go.”
Clearfield actually had more field goals (21) than Central and reached the 50-point mark for only the third time this season by shooting a very respectable 45.7 percent with five three-pointers.
Myers had 10 of Clearfield’s 23 rebounds for a double-double.
The Bisons were guilty of 14 turnovers, two less than the Scarlet Dragons, but Campman stressed there was a difference.
“Ours were more self-inflicted,” he said. “You just can’t win when you have those turnovers that aren’t caused by the defense.”
Campman gave the edge to the Scarlet Dragons in getting to loose balls.
“It seemed like they made a lot of little plays and we didn’t,” he explained. “And I don’t think it was a lack of hustle.
“We just not getting a complete game out of guys.”
Clearfield will be looking for repeats of its two league wins in games at Philipsburg-Osceola Wednesday and at home against Central Mountain Friday.
CENTRAL — 54
Austin Cunningham 3 0-0 8, Pat Schon 3 1-1 10, Matt Ritchey 9 3-4 24, Nick Schon 0 0-0 0, Brandon Myers 2 3-9 7, Ian Ebersole 2 0-0 5, Ethan Barnes 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 7-14 54.
CLEARFIELD — 52
Beau Swales 0 0-0 0, Curtis Frye 4 0-1 8, Nick Redden 3 0-0 9, Jack Mellgard 3 0-0 7, Robbie Myers 7 5-7 19, Derek Morgan 1 0-0 2, Christian Lezzer 3 0-0 7, Vaughn Metz 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 21 5-8 52.
Three-Pointers: Central 9 (Cunningham 2, P. Schon 3, Ritchey 3, Ebersole); Clearfield 5 (Redden 3, Mellgard, Lezzer).
Score by Quarters
Central 17 16 14 7 – 54
Clearfield 13 12 7 20 – 52
Officials – John Thompson, Steve Searer and Justin Fraker.
A buzzer-beating three-pointer by Clearfield’s Ryan Hogue sent the junior varsity game to overtime, and the Bisons went on to register a 45-41 victory. Trey Jordan topped the winners with 10 points, Seth Beardsley tallied nine and Shawn Lord added eight.