By Rich Rhoades
CLARION — It’s repeat time for the Clarion-Limestone Lions, who rolled by the Redbank Valley Bulldogs for another Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference title.
The Lions led from start to finish in a 61-35 rout at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium as they put three players in double-figure scoring and turned in a defensive effort that helped force an awful night shooting for the Bulldogs.
“It’s kind of hard to digest to be honest,” said Lions head coach Joe Ferguson, whose team beat Redbank Valley 62-50 in last year’s final. “The amount of games you have to win in order to get here. People don’t realize how hard it is to get here and then to actually win the game. It’s a good feeling, but I’m just kind of numb right now.”
The now 20-3 Lions head into the District Class A playoffs next week looking for their first district title since way back in 1961. Ferguson has been preaching defense being the key to achieving that elusive goal. Holding the Bulldogs to 23.5 percent shooting (12-for-51) could be called a tune-up.
“We anticipated this could be a lower scoring game,” Ferguson said. “Redbank is a good team and we often talk about trying to keep teams to 10 points or less per quarter. We feel if we can do that than we give ourselves a pretty good chance because we feel we can match up offensively with most teams. For us, defense is the key to our game.”
The Bulldogs were a paltry 2-of-24 from the 3-point line. No Bulldog reached double figures. Their top two scorers — Jake Dougherty and Devin Shumaker — were a combined 5-of-28. Dougherty led the team with nine points while Sam Heeter and Zach Westover each scored eight points.
That made things fairly easy for the Lions’ offense even without a normally sharp-shooting Laugand, who was hampered with foul trouble and a rare off-night shooting. He was 3-for-12 from the field and scored nine points on three 3-pointers, but found his open teammates and dished out 10 assists.
Kolton Stiglitz scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and added nine rebounds. Jesse Pezzuti made 5 of 6 shots, including three 3-pointers, and scored 13 points. Dan Callen turned in a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“They had been playing extremely well and scoring a lot of points, so we were trying to limit their offensive possessions as much as we could,” said Bulldogs head coach Greg Bean, whose team fell to 17-6. “We’re not a stall team and weren’t trying to do that, but were focused on taking good shots. In the first quarter, I thought we did that, but we just didn’t make them.”
The Lions jumped out to a 7-0 lead before the Bulldogs cut it to 10-8 by the end of the first quarter. But things started to tilt the Lions’ way in the second quarter, despite some foul trouble issues, and the Lions led 26-17 at halftime.
The Lions put their lead into double digits for good in the third quarter when they started the half with a 10-2 run. They were up 36-19 at the 1:56 mark when Laugand became the third Lions starter to pick up his third personal foul.
After two baskets by the Bulldogs got it to 13 at 36-23, Stiglitz began his hot run with a basket to give the Lions a 38-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
If the ice-cold Bulldogs had any chance of getting back in the game, Stiglitz made sure he ended it with his big fourth quarter. He hit three 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the fourth, giving the Lions a 47-29 lead at the 6:07 mark. That trey started a 10-2 run that gave the Lions a 57-31 lead at the 3:03 mark.
“We had to explain to him at halftime that the orange rim is what the ball is supposed to go through,” Ferguson said. “He has such a real nice touch on his shot and is a very good shooter. I think maybe the atmosphere or maybe pressing a little bit was a factor early on with him. When he relaxed and knocked down those couple threes, it really created a separation.”
The Bulldogs head to the Class AA playoffs that start next week as well.
“To beat a good team, you have to play well and we didn’t,” Bean said. “We didn’t make shots coming out of halftime and the kids pressed a bit. We forced some shots and it turned into something, it wasn’t good.”
CLARION-LIMESTONE 61, REDBANK VALLEY 35
Score By Quarters
Redbank Valley 8 9 6 12 – 35
C-L 10 16 12 23 – 61
Redbank Valley – 35
Devin Shumaker 2-14 0-0 4, Sam Heeter 2-8 3-7 8, Jake Dougherty 3-14 2-2 9, Zach Westover 2-4 4-5 8, Dalton Dougherty 3-8 0-2 6, Khorey Neiswonger 0-1 0-0 0, Kaleb Reed 0-2 0-0 0, Greg Nolf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-51 9-16 35.
C-L – 61
R.J. Laugand 3-12 0-0 9, Josh Kahle 0-1 0-0 0, Jesse Pezzuti 5-6 0-0 13, Kolton Stiglitz 8-17 0-0 19, Dan Callen 4-8 4-6 12, Noah Rankin 3-9 0-0 6, Cesar Lopez 1-1 0-0 2, Devin Beer 0-0 0-0 0, Travis Aites 0-0 0-0 0, Nate Forrest 0-0 0-0 0, Bailey Wrhen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-54 4-6 61.
3-pointers: C-L 9-20 (Laugand 3-7, Kahle 0-1, Pezzuti 3-4, Stiglitz 3-6, Callen 0-2), Redbank Valley 2-24 (Shumaker 0-7, Heeter 1-4, J. Dougherty 1-9, D. Dougherty 0-1, Neiswonger 0-1, Reed 0-2). Rebounds: Redbank Valley 39 (Westover 10), C-L 37 (Callen 12, Stiglitz 9). Turnovers: Redbank Valley 16, C-L 13.