RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — The turning point may have come in the fourth quarter of a game at A-C Valley last week.
The Clarion-Limestone boys basketball team was struggling for the first three quarters — a symptom of an up-and-down season so far — and trailed heading into the final frame.
(Above, Ryan Hummell was named Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)
Then, things suddenly changed. The Lions shared the ball. They played swarming defense. They put up 17 points and held the shellshocked Falcons to just four in a frenetic fourth quarter to come out with a win.
That carried over into Wednesday at Union.
Clarion-Limestone had five players reach double figures in scoring and its press, for the most part, confounded the Golden Knights on the way to am 83-69 win.
“This was huge because it showed us what we’re capable of,” said Ryan Hummell, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions. “I think that started for us against A-C Valley. That game also showed us what we are capable of as a team.”
Clarion-Limestone (6-6) shot extremely well against Union (6-5), and a plethora of players got in on the act.
Rylie Klingensmith added 16 points. Jase Ferguson, how took a shot to the nose in practice Tuesday and came off the bench Wednesday, added 13. And Tommy Smith and Jordan Hesdon pitched in 11 and 10 respectively.
Hesdon left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
“I’m really happy in regards to the distribution of steals, deflections, rebounds,” said C-L coach Joe Ferguson. “We knocked down shots, too, tonight. That may have been one of the best shooting night we’ve had.”
The Lions needed every one of them early in a back-and-forth affair.
The teams traded baskets for much of the first quarter until Clarion-Limestone made what ended up being a pivotal 9-0 run to seize a 32-24 lead.
It was important because Union could never cut the deficit deeper than five the rest of the game.
C-L’s lead never hit double figures until late in the third quarter. Union trailed by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter as attrition won out for the Lions.
Union was able to break the Lions’ press early, but struggled with it when Clarion-Limestone went back to it in the second quarter.
“The kids, I think, just relaxed and thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to be OK,’” said Union coach Eric Mortimer. “When they went back into it, that’s when we couldn’t handle it.
“They shot the light out,” Mortimer added. “We could get it down to five, but we couldn’t break that door open.”
Caden Rainey scored 20 to lead the Golden Knights. Payton Johnston also had a stellar game with 17 points for Union.
Skyler Roxbury added 11 and Zander Laughlin, starting in the place of injured Bailey Crissman, added 10.
“Union is a class team and their kids are all class acts,” Ferguson said. “It’s a nice group of kids, so I’m pleased to come out of here with a win tonight. Union is a good team.”
There wasn’t much for Ferguson to quibble about, but he was disappointed at times with his defense.
“You’re always looking for perfection,” Ferguson said. “I’m not really happy, to be honest, with our help defense. Our weak-side defense was breaking down all night and we were giving up way too many easy shots.”
Of course, not many teams have a player like Rainey, who was able to get into the paint and make crisp passes to Laughlin, Johnston or Roxbury under the hoop.
“Caden can do whatever he wants to do,” Ferguson said. “Then they have the size.”
To counter that, C-L got a big night, too, from Bryson Huwar.
Huwar scored eight points, but scoring isn’t his main job for the Lions. His task is to do the dirty work — play defense, box out and get rebounds.
“His name doesn’t come up a lot, but Bryson just works,” Ferguson said. “He works the whole game. When he’s in there, he’s just flying around. He does the dirty work, which gets no attention, so I want to give him some kudos.”
Hummell is just hoping Clarion-Limestone can keep cracking the code.
“Hopefully,” he said, “this will give us a lot of confidence going into the Clarion game Friday.”