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Stress Relief: After Long Hiatus, Clarion Returns to the Court to Smother Visiting Moniteau

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Eight days without a game made the Clarion girls basketball team a grumpy bunch.

And they showed it during practice.

“Things were getting a little physical,” said Bobcats’ assistant coach Sam Heeter, smiling. “They were tired of playing against each other.”

Clarion took out some of that pent-up aggression against Moniteau Friday night, playing smothering defense in a 37-24 win over a Warrior team that had been in a groove over the last few weeks, winning four of its last five coming into the night.

“This was great,” said Heeter, who was filling in for head coach Jess Quinn, who was out of town. “They made my life easy tonight. They played extremely well on both ends of the floor.”

It’s a been a trying stretch for Clarion, which played without four starters because of a variety of reasons, including illness and injury, in its last game eight days ago against A-C Valley.

Still, the Bobcats came away with a win.

Wednesday’s game against Karns City was postponed.

“Coming tonight and winning after a week of not playing is really awesome,” said senior Payton Simko, who was the only starter in the lineup the last time Clarion took the court on Jan. 6. “That just shows that we know how to keep calm and pull through things.

“We were so excited to play Karns City (Wednesday), and having that cancelation bummed us out,” Simko added. “We were able to bring all that energy into this game.”

Both teams, though, shot poorly in the first half.

The game was tied at 4-4 at the end of the first quarter and Clarion took a slim 13-11 lead into the half.

The Bobcats (4-4) heated up in the final two quarters and used a 13-4 run to take a 26-15 lead late in the third.

In a defensive struggle, that 11-point deficit may as well have been 50 for Moniteau.

“We laid an egg,” said Warriors’ coach Dee Arblaster. “That’s a shame, too, because we’re better than that.

“You can’t come up here and play like that against them. Those girls are athletes. We talk about that all the time. They are great volleyball players and good basketball players, but they are great athletes and they want to win — I’m not saying my girls don’t, but there’s a difference.”

Moniteau (5-5) couldn’t crack the code on Clarion’s zone.

Davina Pry scored eight to lead Moniteau, but the Bobcats swarmed the Warriors’ shooters, namely Catherine Kelly. Moniteau’s leading scorer had just five points and typified the shooting woes on the night.

Moniteau shot less than 20 percent from the floor and was also plagued by turnovers.

“We couldn’t make a bucket,” Arblaster said.

It also didn’t help that Moniteau was without Allie Pry, who was in COVID quarantine.

The sophomore guard had a huge game Wednesday in a win over Union with 17 points and some key free throws in the fourth quarter.

“She’s a fireplug. She provides a spark,” Arblaster said. “She provides so much … she does all the little things. She’s on the floor. She’s busting her tail. I didn’t see that from anybody tonight.”

Meanwhile Clarion had a floor full of fireplugs, it seemed.

Taylor Alston scored 12 points to lead the Bobcats. She was 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

“We really just worked together,” Alston said. “We had a lot of good defensive highlights tonight. I’m excited. We have a big week next week, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Simko pitched in eight points and Becca Ketner six for Clarion.

Jordan Best, playing with a balky ankle, also scored six for the Bobcats. She ignited the defense as well.

“Moniteau is a good team and they are very well-coached,” Heeter said. “I’m extremely proud of my girls.”

So is Simko, who was the glue that held the Bobcats together during the tumult of the last few weeks with her steady presence and scoring punch.

“I do what I know how to do,” Simko said. “I’m a senior and I needx to be a leader. That came into play. I just had to help them keep going and keep pushing.”