Bison Facing Tough Test in PIAA Playoff Opener

HYDE — Without a doubt, Mars will present one of the toughest challenges a Clearfield Area High School (23-2) boys basketball playoff team has ever faced in PIAA Class AAA first-round action at Clarion High School Friday night.

The Fightin’ Planets, led by the outside-inside combination of Robby Carmody and John Castello, are No. 7 in this week’s PennLive.com Class AAA state rankings.

Bison coach Nate Glunt totally endorses that listing.

“We watched them play Beaver Falls in the WPIAL semifinals, and they’re really good, the best team we’ve faced in my two years,” he said.

Mars (19-6) was nipped 59-58 by Beaver Falls in that game and became the District 7 No. 3 seed when Beaver Falls, ranked No. 2 in the state, defeated 10th-ranked Highlands 56-45 for the championship.

The Fightin’ Planets trimmed Highlands twice en route to the Section 1 title with a 13-1 record. Their lone loss was 85-84 to Hampton, which also is in the state tourney as the WPIAL’s sixth-place finisher.

Among Mars’ other losses were 77-68 to District 8 champ Allderdice, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AAAA, and 74-72 in overtime to Bethel Park, also a PIAA Class AAAA qualifier.

Carmody, son of Fightin’ Planets coach Rob Carmody, is a sophomore sensation who already has been offered scholarships from Penn State, Pitt, Cincinnati, Purdue, Xavier and Duquesne.

Last May in Atlanta, the 6-4 shooting guard was named Most Valuable Player of the Top 40 All-Star Game at the Super Soph Camp, which invited 100 sophomores from all around the country.

“He’s an excellent player and their leading scorer,” Glunt said. “He gets to the basket, and in games we’ve seen, he averaged about four or five dunks.”

Castello is a 6-5, 225-pound senior with more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career.

“He’s excellent on the boards,” Glunt said. “He’s a Division I football player who is choosing to play basketball in college at Shippensburg.”

Other Fightin’ Planet starters, all seniors, probably will be 6-4 Alex Gruber, 6-2 Steve Castello and 5-11 Christian Schmitt.

“Schmitt is a heck of a point guard,” Glunt noted. “I think he would have the opportunity to play in college if he wants.”

Keys for the Bison will be handling the Fightin’ Planets pressure defense and rebounding.

“They play predominately man, and they’ll press,” Glunt said. “They’ll do full-court and three-quarters-court.”

The Mars transition offense mirrors the fast pace that Clearfield prefers.

“They like to push the ball down the floor, especially Carmody,” Glunt said. “When he gets a rebound, he likes to go coast to coast. And he is fast.

“We have to box out, and we have to be good with our helpside. If we don’t, they’ll get every rebound, because they are big and they can jump.”

Starting for the Bison, one of 10 teams accorded honorable mention in PennLive’s state rankings, will be senior Cody Spaid (11.2 points per game) and juniors Will Myers (17.6 ppg), Tommy Hazel (12.6 ppg), Evan Brown (10.6 ppg) and Dave McKenzie (5.9 ppg).

Seniors Caleb Strouse (3.3) and Carter Wood (2.2) are the top reserves.

Glunt has not changed the way the Bison prepared for the Fightin’ Planets.

“When you try to do something one week for one team, it usually doesn’t work,” he explained. “And if it’s not what you do, you’re going to play worse and probably switch back to the way you usually play anyways. You never over think. You lose most of the time when you try to do too much.

“We just gonna do what we do and let the chips fall where they may.

“It’s gonna to take a five-man effort. We’re gonna have to play as a true team to have success.”

After seeing the large contingent of Mars fans at their WPIAL semifinal game, Glunt expects a full house long before the 7 p.m. tipoff and advises Bison fans to think about purchasing tickets, $6 for adults and $3 for students, in advance at the high school office.

Bison Scoreboard:

Date Opponent Score Record
12/07 CURWENSVILLE 76 – 35 1 – 0
12/09 @ Central ppd. 1 – 0
12/11 HUNTINGDON 77 – 64 2 – 0
12/15 BELLEFONTE 44 – 30 3 – 0
12/16 ST. MARYS 68 – 59 4 – 0
12/18 @ Tyrone 59 – 50 5 – 0
12/21 @ Punxsutawney 48 – 66 5 – 1
12/23 @ Bellefonte 56 – 39 6 – 1
12/29&30 Purchase Line Christmas Tourney
12/29 vs. Harmony 60 – 30 7 – 1
12/30 vs. Purchase Line 63 – 24 8 – 1
01/05 BROOKVILLE 64 – 48 9 – 1
01/06 BALD EAGLE AREA 89 – 56 10 – 1
01/08 @ Penns Valley 58 – 49 11 – 1
01/12 PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA ppd. 11 – 1
01/14 PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA 80 – 42 12 – 1
01/15 CENTRAL 67 – 50 13 – 1
01/18 DUBOIS 71 – 42 14 – 1
01/20 @ Huntingdon 92 – 48 15 – 1
01/26 TYRONE 57 – 47 16 – 1
01/29 @ Bald Eage Area 97 – 57 17 – 1
02/01 @ Central 57 – 64 17 – 2
02/03 PENNS VALLEY 44 – 37 18 – 2
02/05 @ Philipsburg-Osceola 75 – 27 19 – 2
02/08 @ Curwensville 72 – 39 20 – 2
02/17 District 9 Semifinals
02/17 vs. BRADFORD 59 – 34 21 – 2
02/19 District 9 Championship
02/19 vs. St. Marys (@ Clarion U.) 56 – 42 22 – 2
02/25 PIAA Play-in Game
02/25 vs. Obama Academy (Clarion HS) 68 – 51 23 – 2
03/04 PIAA Playoffs
03/04 vs. Mars (Clarion HS)
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