CURWENSVILLE – After giving coach Joey Castagnolo an early Christmas present, his 150th victory, at Bellefonte Friday, the Clearfield Area High School girls basketball team wrapped up one of the best Decembers in his 13-year reign by defeating Curwensville 57-38 in Patton Hall Wednesday night.
Rachel Thompson tied her career high with 18 points and three teammates also reached double figures for the once-beaten Lady Bisons, who will ride into the new year on a four-game winning streak, their longest since January of 2009.
Dakota Farmery registered another double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds while Kristen Butler and Breanna Peters chipped in 10 points apiece.
“That what I’ve been looking for, balance,” Castagnolo said. “Our posts have been leading us for the last three games, so it’s time for the guards to step up and do what they did tonight with Rachel leading the way.
“I was happy with the guard play. Lisa (Ambuski) ran the point, and we passed the ball around and looked for the open girls.”
Crisp passing and a 52-34 rebounding advantage led to several fast breaks created many easy baskets, but the Lady Bisons couldn’t put away the pesky Lady Tide until the fourth quarter.
Farmery, Peters on an assist from Ambuski, and Thompson scored from point-blank range to give the Lady Bisons a 6-0 start, and they never trailed.
However, leads of 15 points, 26-11, in the second quarter and 14 points, 35-21, midway through the third period were trimmed by a determined Lady Tide effort.
Katrina Seaburn and Ciara Strickland fueled the responses by Curwensville (1-3) that sliced deficits to 28-19 at the half and 35-30 with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Seaburn scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds despite being under the weather, according to coach Rusty McCracken, and Strickland added nine points.
“Katrina wasn’t feeling good at all,” McCracken said. “And she had a whale of a game. She’s been down for a couple of days, and her face was red from cheek to cheek.”
Strickland’s three-pointer, the only one of the game, and Seaburn’s bucket capped an 8-0 run that made it a five-point game with nine minutes left.
Coach Rusty McCracken credited the rally to his players executing the offense.
“We started finding each other,” he said. “We made some great passes. We made some great shots.
“It could have been a lot better had we not gotten too anxious. We missed, probably, six or seven shots in a row off of turnovers.
“I try to tell them to be patient. We want to take some time off the clock, make a good shot and then go play defense. If we take our time, the other teams have less time to run their offense.”
Castagnolo viewed the return of Peters, who sat a long spell after picking up four falls in the first half, as the spark the Lady Bisons needed.
“Bre came back in and we settled down and played some tough defense and scored some points,” he said.
And Clearfield began to pull away as Thompson arced a perfect lob to the 6-3 Farmery for a peep and then hit a short jumper to expand the margin to 39-30 going to the final period.
Peters quickly increased the lead to 13 points with a layup off a Thompson feed and a putback.
Clearfield countered three baskets by the hard-working Seaburn when Farmery converted passes from Ambuski and Thompson before Thompson turned a steal into a layup to set the score at 49-36 with 4:02 left and trigger a 10-point run that made the final tally somewhat deceiving.
“We had nice spacing in that fourth quarter,” Castagnolo said. “We showed what we could do by passing the ball around the perimeter and looking for diagonal passes.”
Both coaches praised the effort of Seaburn on the defensive end in trying to neutralize Farmery by fronting the big junior when she posted up in the low blocks.
“She played physical, which is good down the road for us,” Castagnolo said. “A lot of times, girls will front either of those two (Farmery and Peters) but won’t get real physical like that.”
“It definitely was by design,” McCracken explained. “We like Katrina in front, make them make a good pass to her. Dakota’s got good hands, but if we can get the backside person helping out a little it would work.”
In the end, Clearfield’s inside play was too much for the Lady Tide, and that included quality minutes by reserves Kate Sheeder and Janelle Mumma, who combined for 11 rebounds when Peters was sidelined. Sheeder also scored three points.
“With our pace, my big girls get tired, and they did an excellent job filling in,” Castagnolo said. “I was happy for them.”
“Size does matter,” McCracken said. “They just looked for Dakota and we were a little tired, maybe. She didn’t get anything easy, but just weren’t able to combat that height down the stretch.
“Another thing Dakota does is draw all the attention, and Breanna’s just gotta love that. She gets great passes and makes easy layups.”
Still, McCracken was pleased with his team’s performance.
He said, “We were down 14 and could have said, ‘Oh, it’s Clearfield. They’re gonna take good care of it.’
“And the girls said, ‘Nope, it’s not gonna happen.’ And we mounted a little comeback.
“We got some good time from our bench and played tough defense there.
“And that’s the best offensive effort we’ve had to date.”
Thompson’s overall play that included good numbers in rebounds, assists and steals was praised by McCracken.
“She played a great game,” he said. “I don’t know if she’s ever shot that well. She’s an athlete.”
Clearfield shot 36 percent from the floor with 27 field goals in 75 attempts, while Curwensville made only 23.9 percent of 67 tries.
Clearfield plays only its second home game of the season Wednesday when Tyrone visits Weiss Gym for an important Mountain League Allegheny Division showdown.
Curwensville is back in Patton Hall Tuesday against Moshannon Valley League rival West Branch, the first of three games in four days next week.
In the prelim, the Lady Bison jayvees held on for a 35-32 win with Tessa Munshower’s eight points leading a balanced offense. The Golden Tide’s Tiffany Carter and Kealy Wassil shared game honors with 12 points apiece.
See photos of the game here: http://www.ladybisonsports.org/lbsbball122811.html
CLEARFIELD — 57
Lisa Ambuski 1 0-0 2, Rachel Thompson 8 2-2 18, Kristen Butler 5 0-0 10, Breanna Peters 5 0-0 10, Dakota Farmery 6 0-0 12, Brittany Renaud 1 0-0 2, Kate Sheeder 1 1-2 3, Janelle Mumma 0 0-0 0, Tess Munshower 0 0-0 0, Maggie Sopic 0 0-0 0, Brianna Spencer 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 27 3-4 57.
CURWENSVILLE — 38
Savannah Strickland 2 0-4 4, Tierra Shope 2 0-2 4, Becca Johnson 0 0-0 0, Ciara Strickland 3 2-2 9, Katrina Seaburn 7 3-6 17, Tiara Bumbarger 0 0-0 0, Kealy Wassil 1 0-0 2, Megan McGarry 0 0-0 0, Tiffany Carter 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 16 5-14 38.
Three-Point Field Goals – Curwensville 1 (C. Strickland).
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Clearfield 18 10 11 18 – 57
Curwensville 10 9 11 8 – 38
Officials – Chris Sherkel and Jerry Carnicella.