HYDE — It was a playoff-like atmosphere inside the Bison Gymnasium on Wednesday night, even if the crowd was limited. A non-league matchup between the Clearfield Bison and the West Branch Warriors felt as though each were getting prepared for some post-season action, as each side felt it was a warm-up for what lies ahead.
Each side seemed to start out fast, and enjoyed playing from behind, as in behind the arc. When one team made a shot, the other answered. It became a night of who would break first, or who could not keep up. Somehow, even after a night where a game was decided late in the going, Clearfield stayed fresh, and kept the pace as they stunned the Warriors with a stellar-second half to achieve the 67-35 contest.
It was a game that was a lot closer than it appeared, and Clearfield head coach Nate Glunt quickly pointed out how West Branch had them on their heels early, courtesy of the three-point shot. The two squads combined for 19 shots making the net from deep range, but the player that Glunt noticed right away was Trent Bellomy. Many of his deep buckets weren’t from at the arc, but more of two yards behind the line, and were shots that nearly made it in the net every time.
“Give West Branch credit, that kid (Bellomy), he was shooting them from just five feet past mid-court, and he made three of them! He nearly banked in a half-court shot right at the end of the second quarter,” Glunt said.
At the same time, when Clearfield got out to a run, Warrior head coach Dan Clark would call a timeout and got his team back in order, hoping to close the gap. He did that a couple of times in the opening stanza, as the Warriors trailed by just one, 13-12. Bellomy’s deep shots allowed him to be the top-scorer for the Warriors, as he drained 14 points on the night, with four coming from three-point range. Clark made an easy statement about his guard, stating, “When Trent’s on, whatever he wants to do, he does it. They aren’t far off when he misses either. Every shot is great. When you are 5′ 6″ and playing bigger opponents, you have to do something different.”
Glunt could see that the defense from West Branch was challenging them as at one point in the second stanza, they were barely ahead by a basket. But, following a timeout, Clearfield found its footing as they eliminated mistakes, and defensively were more active on the boards, and forced some turnovers which then turned into points.
“We turned the ball over, so give them credit, they were active in their zone. Once we eliminated turnovers, we played like we did last night for four quarters in the first quarter,” Glunt said. “In the second quarter, Karson (Rumsky) upped the intensity, especially defensively. Jake (Lezzer) came in and made some great energetic plays, and we just started playing harder.
“Karson got the ball on the left wing and started attacking it, got the ball inside. We were fortunate to hit some three’s in the beginning of the game, but once we got inside, our kids began getting offensive rebounds, and that was huge for us.”
At the end of the first half, the 35-22 gap for Clearfield was the largest it had been, but it was the second half, specifically the third quarter, took the wind out of the sails for the Warriors.
Going back to the last minutes in the second quarter, Clearfield seemed to have fresher legs, and utilized that to get critical rebounds, force turnovers, and turned them into points. At the same time, West Branch could not buy a basket if it tried, as they were held to just a single deep three-pointer from the last two minutes of the first half all the way through the third quarter. Clearfield held a 49-25 advantage heading into the final quarter, and Clark could tell his starters, and even his bench rotation, were getting tired.
“That was a quality first half. But those last two minutes of the second quarter, they were up 24-22, and they went on that 10-0 run. We were playing well, but they got that run, and it just killed us,” he said. “They did the same thing last year in the third quarter. I remember it, as (Cole) Miller hit three treys and it broke the game wide open. I am proud of how we battled tonight, but we just got a little winded.”
Miller would be the top-scorer for the game as he finished with 16 points. He was one of four Bison to hit double figures, joining Rumsky (15), Matt Pallo (11) and Luke Winters (10). Glunt was also proud of his bench play, as the last several weeks have proven. Players like Jake Lezzer, Ryan Gearhart, and Curvey Purkett have been putting in crucial minutes for Clearfield, as Purkett was the leading rebounder for the Bison on this night, pulling down nine boards. Glunt has said in past games that the tall senior has been excellent in the paint to get rebounds on both ends of the court, but was also redeeming himself from some missed opportunities in the prior game against Clarion-Limestone.
“(Tuesday) night, for some reason, he didn’t catch them despite putting himself in position. Tonight, he caught those rebounds. He’s reaching way behind his head, he’s flexible, and he did a great job,” Glunt said. “He was crashing the boards Tuesday night, and he would get the ball, but it would slip out of his hands, but tonight he was absolutely fantastic. Curvey is coming along every single day, and is playing with a lot of energy.”
Clearfield pulled out to a 30-point gap midway through the fourth quarter before Clark called a timeout, which gave Glunt an opportunity to sit his starters and give his junior varsity squad, who won the opening jayvee contest by a 55-27 final, some playing time.
Clark, even in defeat, was happy with the effort his team played, and considering what his team was faced with this week, it felt like it was a post-season contest, a true test for what was upcoming.
“Games like this, these are playoff-type games. We have three games this week, with Brookville, Clearfield, and Williamsburg all back-to-back, and those are all likely the favorites for district winners. That’s not saying we’re not going to potentially win our district, but we’re not the favorites,” Clark said. “That’s how we battle, and we’re not shying away from those battles.
“We just didn’t have that strong of a second half. We didn’t score, and when they started their run, we just couldn’t recover.”
Clearfield (14-5) has just three more games remaining on the season, with one coming on Friday night as they travel to face Bellefonte. These two faced off just two weeks ago on February 5, where Clearfield had to come from behind to pull off a 45-41 victory. Tip-off for the varsity is approximately 7:30 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTER
West Branch 12 10 3 10 – 35
Clearfield 13 23 13 18 – 67
WEST BRANCH – 35
Sager Cazr 0 0-0 0, Trenton Bellomy 5 0-0 14, Zach Tiraorda 3 0-2 8, Doug Kolesar 2 0-0 6, Kyle Kolesar 2 0-0 4, Travis Rothrock 0 1-2 1, Isaac Tiracorda 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 13 1-4 35.
CLEARFIELD – 67
Matt Pallo 4 0-0 11, Nick Ryan 0 0-0 0, Luke Winters 4 0-0 10, Karson Rumsky 7 0-0 15, Cole Miller 6 0-0 16, Jake Lezzer 1 0-2 2, Ryan Gearhart 2 0-0 5, Morgan Billotte 0 0-0 0, Isakk Way 1 0-0 2, Nasheed Thompson 0 0-0 0, Curvey Purkett 3 0-2 6, Luke Pallo 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 28 0-4 67.
Three-Point Shots: Bellomy-4, Z. Tiracorda-2, D. Kolesar-2/M. Pallo-3, Winters-2, Rumsky, Miller-4