BROOKVILLE — Outsized and outmanned but not outscrapped, the Clearfield Area High School girls basketball team kept the big and very experienced North Clarion She-Wolves in their sights until the final seconds of their season opener in the Brookville Tip-Off Tournament Friday afternoon.
The Lady Bison’s rallied from their biggest deficit, 11 points, to chop the margin to 48-44 when Emily Ryan cashed in two steals 11 seconds apart and then drove the lane for a scoop shot with 47 seconds remaining.
They had a chance to make it a one-possession game 12 seconds later, but a miss on the front end of a one-and-one was followed by senior Abbie Schmader’s two free throws with 24.5 seconds left that sealed the 50-45 win for the She-Wolves.
Schmader and sophomore Tori Obenrader, the D9Sports.com Rookie of the Year after averaging 13.3 points and 11.9 rebounds last season and one of five girls on that site’s 2015-16 All-District 9 Preseason Team, combined for all but five of North Clarion’s points.
They poured in 24 and 21 points, respectively, with Obenrader also grabbing 22 rebounds for an impressive double-double. Schmader also had one as she pulled down 15 missed shots.
Both stand 5-11, as does junior Cassie Wagner for an imposing front line that dominated the rebounding by a wide margin and proved enough second-chance points to make the difference.
“We don’t have that kind of height, and nobody in the Mountain League has that kind of height,” Clearfield coach Joey Castagnolo said. “And you could tell they play together inside with some of the nice high-low moves they had. They’re a seasoned team.”
Clearfield countered with a three-pronged attack as Rachel Glenny scored 15 points inside, Margo Castagnolo pumped in a career-high 13 from outside, including a trio of three-pointers, and Ryan chipped in with 11.
“Margo shot the ball well, and Rachel had a nice game,” coach Castagnolo said. “She battled the whole time. And things will be a little easier because she won’t find that kind of height again.”
Hustle and good perimeter defense enabled the Lady Bison to hang close to a team which beat them 43-25 a year ago and was intact except for one starter.
The encouraging effort had Castagnolo second-guessing himself for not pressing the She-Wolves sooner than the final minutes.
He was reluctant to make that move earlier because the Lady Bison were shorthanded with the absence of two players who will be back in action next week.
“If I had my full squad, I might have pressed the whole second half, but I didn’t want to wear them out,” he said. “You do what you have to do.”
The game was tight throughout the first half with Clearfield holding leads of 13-9 in the first quarter and 23-18 with two minutes left in the half with Glenny accounting for 11 points.
Schmader and Obenrader gave the She-Wolves a 24-23 halftime lead and then widened that with the first six points of the third quarter, when the Lady Bison went scoreless for 3:08.
Margo Castagnolo swished a pair of three-pointers to keep it a two-possession game, but North Clarion took a 36-31 advantage into the final period and opened a 43-33 gap with 4:07 left.
They still held a double-digit lead at 48-37 with 1:34 remaining before Glenny hit a free throw and Ryan created havoc on defense for her six-point run, but the Lady Bison couldn‘t sustain the comeback.
Still, Castagnolo was happy with how his team responded to some adversity.
“All in all, we lost to that team by almost 20 points last year, and we gave them a game,” he said. “And we just about walked out win a win.”
The Lady Bison will return to the Brookville Area High School gym Saturday for the 2 p.m. consolation game against Clarion-Limestone, which lost 59-8 to Brookville.
CLEARFIELD — 45
Ally Lindstrom 1 2-4 4, Sam Rockmore 0 0-0 0, Rachel Glenny 6 3-5 15, Margo Castagnolo 5 0-0 13, Emily Ryan 5 1-1 11, Niki Chew 0 0-0 0, Alayna Ryan 1 0-1 2, Kate Lansberry 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 18 6-11 45.
NORTH CLARION — 50
Michaela Higgins 0 0-1 0, Abbie Schmader 10 4-7 24, Cassie Wagner 2 0-0 4, Taylor Gatesman 0 0-2 0, Tori Obenrader 9 2-6 21, Erika Sheridan 0 0-0 0, Sarah Settler 0 1-2 1. TOTALS: 21 7-18 50.
Three-Point Field Goals – Clearfield 3 (Castagnolo 3); North Clarion 1 (Obenrader 1).
Score by Quarters
Clearfield 13 10 8 14 – 45
North Clarion 12 12 12 14 – 50
Officials – Ron Dolby, John Fricker and Rich Rhoades.
Lady Bison Scoreboard:
|12/04&05||@ Brookville Tip-off Tourney|
|12/04||vs. North Clarion||45 – 50||0 – 1|
|01/05||@ Bald Eagle Area|
|01/18||@ St. Marys|
|01/29||BALD EAGLE AREA|
|02/02||@ Penns Valley|