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Bobcats, Christian Simko Get Their Mojo Back in 62-48 Road Victory Over Moniteau

WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Christian Simko doesn’t look back fondly on the last two games.

The senior star on the Clarion boys basketball team had lost his mojo. So had the Bobcats.

“I had back-to-back games where I had career high in points, and then I had back-to-back games where I don’t think I got into double digits,” Simko said.

Not surprisingly with Simko struggling against two strong defensive teams in Punxsutawney and Karns City, Clarion also scuffled in those two losses, combining to score a mere 68 points after putting up 80-plus in the previous two outings.

That made Thursday night’s game at Moniteau even more important.

Clarion found its groove again, using a 10-0 run to close the first quarter with a 16-7 lead. Simko then closed out the Warriors in the fourth quarter by scoring 12 of his game-high 25 points in a 62-48 road victory.

“I think that was really important for my confidence,” Simko said. “Just to get back and do my thing and have the team share the ball, that was great.”

Clarion also got 15 points from Gabe Simko and 11 points from Dawson Smail.

Having that kind of scoring punch from players not named Christian Simko is important for a young Bobcat team going forward.

“Especially when I’m having an off night, if the rest of the team can pick up the slack, that’s going to make us better,” Christian Simko said. “If they’re all scoring 10 points, that’s 40 right there. You can win a lot of high school basketball games doing that.”

Clarion (7-5) won this one in large part because of its ability to keep Moniteau from cutting too deeply into a 10-point lead it established early in the second half.

The Bobcat advantage fluctuated between 12 and six points throughout most of the final two quarters.

There were times when Moniteau played crisply. Ryan Jewart scored 13, including four 3-pointers, and Kyle Pry scored 11. But there were also times when the Warriors committed inopportune turnovers that helped Clarion nurse its lead.

“We’re right on the cusp,” said Moniteau coach Mike Jewart. “We’re close. And when we get it, when we actually understand what we need to do for the full four quarters, I think we’re going to be a really good team. We just haven’t got it yet, and that’s been the very frustrating part of it.”

Moniteau (1-8) got as close as 48-42 midway through the fourth quarter and had possession, but a turnover led to a quick basket for Clarion and the lead was back to eight.

Clarion coach Scott Fox was pleased about how his team was able to withstand several momentum shifts in Moniteau’s favor and not crumble.

“It’s definitely important because it shows them not to panic, not to lose their heads,” Fox said. “It’s good for a young team to do that.”

It was also good for Fox to see his team play like it had during a stretch where they won five out of six.

“It was definitely good to see us back into our flow, getting out on transition,” Fox said. “When everything’s clicking, we can score, but if we’re not getting out in transition, we can struggle a little bit. We challenged them today to get defensive rebounds and get out out and go.”

Clarion held a definite edge on the glass against Moniteau. That was something that plagued the Bobcats the last two games, especially against Karns City on Tuesday.

It’s something that has plagued Moniteau for most of the season.

So has other circumstances.

It hasn’t been a smooth year for the Warriors. The school had a 10-day shutdown because of COVID shortly before the start of the season, which put Jewart, his staff and team behind. Now, Moniteau is struggling with injuries and illnesses — the junior varsity game was canceled Thursday because of a lack of players.

“I have to get guys healthy again,” Jewart said.

Moniteau could use the break that Clarion has on its schedule.

The Bobcats don’t play again for eight days.

Christian Simko, though, is taking a positive spin on the time off.

“We say at every practice, ‘Get better at one thing,’” he said. “If we get better at one thing every single day, by the time we play again we should be fine.”