Free Throws Key as Bison Turn Back Golden Tide 61-50

CURWENSVILLE — The Clearfield Area High School boys basketball team withstood Curwensville’s best effort of the season to walk out of Patton Hall with a 61-50 non-league victory in front of a large crowd Monday night.

The Bison never could put the upstart Golden Tide away until the final minute when pairs of foul shots by Andrew Lopez, Karson Rumsky and Matt Pallo topped off an excellent 27-for-35 performance at the foul line.

“We tried to tell our kids we have to make good moves to the basket, stay low, and I thought we could pick up some fouls if we took care of the basketball,” Clearfield assistant coach Donnie Shimmel said. “I think that played out.

“We just had guys step up at the free throw line. That’s so important to these guys.”

Pallo, a sophomore whose previous high was 10 points, hit all six of his free throws to go with four field goals, two from behind the arc, for 16 points that paced a very balanced offense.

Rumsky, who sank seven of nine foul shots, was right behind with 14 points, Cade Walker tossed in 12 before exiting with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter because of a head injury and Andrew Lopez added 10, six coming at the charity stripe.

Taye Lynch just missed joining them in double figures, finishing with eight points.

“We got usual things from the other guys, but Matt Pallo really gave us a big boost,” Shimmel said. “He made some excellent drives to the basket from the perimeter.”

For Curwensville, Christian Bakaysa was high with 14 points, and Dakota Bloom chimed in with a season-high 13.

The Golden Tide owned the lead for most of the first quarter, thanks to seven points by Bloom on a baseline drive, a set-shot three-pointer from the top of the key and a spinning layup.

Walker put the Bison ahead for the first time at 10-8 on a straightaway triple, but Avery Francisco countered with a layup that made it a stalemate going to the second period.

“I’ve been telling everybody Curwensville was gonna come out and play well, because I’ve been watching them the last four or five games and they’ve been playing outstanding basketball,” Shimmel said. “So, I knew we had a battle on our hands.”

The Golden Tide continued to play the Bison on even terms for the rest of the half, too, because of solid boardwork by Bakaysa and Francisco, who would go on to finish with 11 and nine rebounds, respectively.

“I was a little fired up the first half about the rebounding,” Shimmel said. “Avery and Christian are physical inside, and you need to match that physicality if you’re gonna stay with them. We didn’t do that early. I thought we did a better job as the game went on.”

The Bison did gain the upper hand by intermission at 25-23 via three-pointers from Pallo and Rumsky and seven free throws that offset triples by the Golden Tide’s Lincoln Guiffre and Ty Terry and five points by Bakaysa.

Curwensville’s offense took a hit when Terry, who broke the freshman scoring and three-point records this season, was tagged with his third foul late in the second period.

He picked up No. 4 after Clearfield had opened a 30-23 gap two minutes into the third period and fouled out with 5:42 left in the game.

Francisco and Trevor Lansberry also departed with four fouls in third quarter, the latter fouling out one minute into the final period.

The Bison had 17 possessions end with trips to the charity stripe.

“The foul trouble ultimately was our undoing,” Wassil said. “When Terry goes to the bench, we can’t stretch the floor as much, so it makes it easier for them to pack it in on Christian. And we had Lansberry go in there, and he got three quick ones. Now, we’re even deeper into our bench and have even less shooting.”

Still, the Golden Tide found a way to stay in the Bison’s rearview mirror even after the Bison looked like they were pulling away at 41-29 with two minutes left in the third period as six points by Rumsky and five by Pallo sparked the breakaway run.

Lansberry’s deep three and Jeremy Irwin’s two foul shots reduced the Clearfield lead to single digits again before another Pallo drive made it 43-34 going to the final period.

The Bison spaced the floor to open the middle and kept drawing fouls that had them parading to the foul line in the last six minutes when they went 11-for-12, Lopez swishing five and Rumsky four.

Curwensville kept scrapping and hustling, making it a two-possession game at 50-44 with 4:13 on the clock and getting to within seven points three more times, that last one at 55-48 on Bakaysa’s final points with 1:30 left.

However, the Bison just weren’t missing their free throw opportunities.

The make up of the rivalry game that was snowed out last week ended a 10-day layoff for the Bison, who finished the regular season 12-10.

And they won’t be back in action until the middle of next week when, as the No. 1 seed, they will play for a fifth consecutive District 9 Class AAAA championship against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between No. 2 seed Bradford (9-13) and No. 3 St. Marys (8-13).

“We told the kids this is our semifinal game,” Shimmel said. “We have to treat it like a playoff game. And Curwensville did, too. They came out and took it to us right off the bat. Our kids finally were able to get a feel for the flow of the game, and then we were able to settle down and start doing some good things that we knew we could do.”

Wassil chose to take the positive away from the determined effort by the Golden Tide, who had almost the same rebound and turnover numbers as the Bison..

“We may not have won, but there’s no doubt in my mind that was the best game we played all year,” Wassil said. “Our kids battled and played as well as they could have.

“We just stuck to our game plan. We wanted to move the ball and get it inside to Bakaysa. We started to get some guys driving, too. We just can’t keep reversing the ball without looking to do anything with it.

“We had some guys who don’t normally score for us and maybe didn’t have a lot of points, but in key moments they stepped up and got some key buckets.”

The loss left the Golden Tide with a 5-17 record, but Wassil was encouraged by their work and improvement over the course of the season.

“I just think our kids have stuck to it all year,” Wassil said. “We didn’t start off very good, but we’ve gotten better and started to play basketball the right way. And we have to keep that momentum going. We can’t revert back and start over again in November. We have to be where we are now so we can grow from there. And that’s all going to come by putting in a good offseason.”

Bakaysa, Francisco, Bloom, Irwin and Guiffre were the seniors making their final appearance on their home floor.

In the junior varsity game, Luke Winters scored 13 points and Pallo added 11 as Clearfield triumphed 52-16. Adam Miller netted every point for the Curwensville underclassmen.

CLEARFIELD — 61

Taye Lynch 2 4-4 8, Cade Walker 4 3-5 12, Karson Rumsky 3 7-9 14, Andrew Lopez 2 6-9 10, Matt Pallo 4 6-6 16, Keagan Hess 0 0-0 0, Harrison Peacock 0 1-2 1, Barrett Kline 0 0-0 0.  TOTALS:  15  27-35  61.

CURWENSVILLE — 50

Avery Francisco 3 0-0 6, Christian Bakaysa 5 4-8 14, Jeremy Irwin 0 3-4 3, Dakota Bloom 6 0-2 13, Ty Terry 1 0-0 3, Trevor Lansberry 2 1-1 6, Lincoln Guiffre 2 0-0 5, Adam Miller 0 0-0 0.  TOTALS:  19  8-15  50.

Three-Point Field Goals – Clearfield 4 (Walker 1, Rumsky 1, Pallo 2); Curwensville 4 (Bloom 1, Terry 1, Lansberry 1, Guiffre 1).

Score by Quarters

Clearfield       10  15  18  18  –  61

Curwensville  10  13  11  16  –  50

Officials – Rich Gormont, Chris Sherkel and Dave Gardner.

Final Golden Tide Scoreboard:

Date Opponent Score Record
12/07 @ Clearfield 32 – 77 0 – 1
12/10 @ Mo Valley 26 – 56 0 – 2
12/14 RIDGWAY 26 – 65 0 – 3
12/17 @ Penns Manor 53 – 66 0 – 4
12/19 GLENDALE 45 – 66 0 – 5
12/21 @ Leechburg 45 – 83 0 – 6
01/04 @ Brockway 54 – 67 0 – 7
01/08 @ DuBois Central 36 – 67 0 – 8
01/10 @ Harmony 64 – 59 1 – 8
01/15 ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC 48 – 64 1 – 9
01/16 @ West Branch 40 – 56 1 – 10
01/18 @ Kane 43 – 62 1 – 11
01/21 HARMONY ppd. 1 – 11
01/22 @ Ridgway 23 – 55 1 – 12
01/25 BROCKWAY 63 – 60 2 – 12
01/28 WEST BRANCH 48 – 53 2 – 13
01/30 @ Glendale ppd. 2 – 13
02/01 @ Johnsonburg 26 – 62 2 – 14
02/05 DUBOIS CENTRAL 52 – 78 2 – 15
02/08 SHEFFIELD 73 – 52 3 – 15
02/09 @ Glendale 39 – 60 3 – 16
02/11 MO VALLEY ppd. 3 – 16
02/13 CLEARFIELD ppd. 3 – 16
02/14 MO VALLEY 45 – 35 4 – 16
02/15 HARMONY 59 – 50 5 – 16
02/18 CLEARFIELD 50 – 61 5 – 17

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