HYDE, Pa. — The long wait had finally come to an end for the Clearfield Bison round-ballers. After ending their season as the month of February closed, the playoff-bound Bison had to wait over a week to get back on the hardwood in competition.
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Tuesday night, they had that chance, as the District IX semi-finals were kicking off in Class 4A. On the opposing side of the court, the Bradford Owls made the trip hoping to upset the home-standing Bison, who welcomed more fans into the Bison Gym for the first time all season.
Although both teams got off to a sluggish start, the Bison began turning things up in the second quarter. Despite not being able to penetrate the Owl defense, Clearfield compensated with deep shots behind the arc, resulting in a dozen baskets from deep range. The Bison would utilize that to ensure they would move on in the brackets, taking home the victory in a 70-41 final.
“We were very fortunate to get the win. Give Bradford credit; I thought they came out and were very active in their zone defense. They kept us out of the paint,” Bison Head Coach Nate Glunt said afterwards. “We were able to make some three’s, but make no mistake, they were very active in their zone and protected the paint.
“That was the reason it was so close early in the game.”
Glunt was not mistaken, as both teams early on were a bit sluggish to get going, as neither had played any competitive game for nearly 14 days. The methodical play of both sides only led to 13 points in the first quarter, with Clearfield holding the 9-4 advantage. At the same time, neither team was making many mistakes when it came to committing fouls, as only three infractions were made in the opening frame. Bradford, however, had a bit of sloppy play in the opening quarter with seven turnovers, however the Bison were not able to take advantage as they had hoped.
In the second quarter, things drastically changed.
Karson Rumsky (white) looks over the Bradford defense in the second half. Rumsky finished with a game-high 19 points. (Photo by Dustin Parks)
Clearfield suddenly found itself having to settle for either a jump shot or trying to get the ball to the outside man in order to get points. Bradford’s zone was not giving Clearfield any opportunities at easy layups or inside shots. Clearfield managed to get on a roll as they held a five-point advantage, but suddenly they were able to get the ball on the perimeter, with a huge basket from the wing by Luke Winters pushing the lead to three possessions, and allowed Clearfield to expand the lead to 25-10 by halftime.
“Luke Winters hit that big three, putting us up 18-10, and then the guys began to relax…We were not able to get the ball inside. Bradford did a great job of closing out our drives,” Glunt said of the defense and the key shot.
When the Bison and the Owls emerged from the locker room, it seemed as though things may pick up, and they did, but not as expected. At least when it came to how the Owls were hoping to combat the Bison shooters. After seeing how the zone defense was keeping the layups at a minimum, with the exception of the occasional transition basket from a turnover, Clearfield then utilized the outside arc to get points. Karson Rumsky and Cole Miller suddenly began roaring to life, as the two would combine for 13 of the team’s 22 points in the third quarter. Clearfield utilized a total of 12 baskets from deep range to put the Owls in a deep hole, which for Glunt was simply how they had to play the defense they were presented.
“As the game went on, we were able to penetrate and even had Karson at the high post a few times. He does a good job at that position,” Glunt said. “If teams decide to play zone, we have him at that position, with Cole right beside him. Teams then have to choose who they want to play.”
Rumsky and Miller were the only two Bison in double figures, scoring 19 and 18 points, respectively. Rumsky added in seven assists plus four steals. Winters would lead the team in rebounds with eight on the night.
Clearfield held a 47-24 advantage after three quarters, but Bradford was not going away quietly, as they continued to pressure the Bison in the final quarter, forcing them to still gamble from the outer edge of the court. But, the Owls could not capitalize as even the Bison reserves came in and found a way to score, as Morgen Billotte, Nasheed Thompson, and Justin Fletcher all accounted for points on the night.
Bradford only had Cam Austin in double figures, as he finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Glunt was extremely pleased to be back on the court in a competitive fashion, as he had stated in prior games that his team seems to play better after a game rather than after a practice. Considering all that the team has done for the last week is practice, he was extremely pleased with how his squad responded, not just because of the layoff, but also the atmosphere inside the gymnasium.
“We haven’t played for practically two weeks, so they were a bit rusty at the start, and maybe a bit nervous too. We actually had fans here tonight for a playoff atmosphere,” Glunt said. “It’s a great job by our kids to come back after that time off to get the victory.”
Clearfield (18-5) will play host on Saturday to the District IX Class 4A championship. They will play host to the St. Marys Flying Dutch, who advance to the championship game following a thrilling 44-42 victory over the Punxsutawney Chucks that went into double overtime.