PITTSBURGH, Pa. — It was a fleeting thought that the PIAA 2021 basketball schedule would not happen, as many teams were forced to change, postpone, or cancel games and practices due to outbreaks or being just unable to be around teammates and coaches.
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But, somehow, the Clearfield Bison not only put together a full 22-game season, but it led them to a District IX championship once again, and meant they were on their way into the PIAA bracket. That also meant a Tuesday road trip, one that was longer than any on the entire season, as they made the drive all the way to Pittsburgh to face the District 8 champions, the Obama Academy of International Studies Eagles.
That trip didn’t come easy, as three of the Bison starters did not make the journey, meaning that other players had to step into roles they would play, but would play more minutes. In any case, the Bison made it work, as they would lead from the opening tip to the final buzzer, taking home a 52-35 triumph.
Clearfield was down three starters, as Karson Rumsky, Luke Winters, and Nick Ryan did not make the long bus ride. That meant guys like Ryan Gearhart and Jake Lezzer would have more playing time, and have to take on the roles that the usual starting five would have. It took a bit to find the right combination, as the Bison would only hold an 8-6 advantage after one quarter of play.
But, that is when Clearfield found what worked best for them, as their defense came up big in the second quarter.
The Eagles were held to only four points in the second stanza, while Clearfield fought hard and drained 14 points in the same timeframe. In the quarter, despite Cole Miller accounting for five of the team’s points in the frame, it was the play of Ryan Gearhart and Nasheed Thompson who combined for seven key points to put Clearfield ahead. Gearhart would be the leading scorer of the game, finishing with 19 points. He would also add in three assists.
On a normal game night, Gearhart would be one of the first ones off the bench, but his first night as a starter this season proved vital as his 14 points in the second half gave Clearfield an enormous amount of confidence, igniting the coaches and team.
Thompson would finish the game with 12 points, while Miller added in eight while also pulling down four rebounds and three assists. Jake Lezzer would be vital as he was at the top of the stat line in rebounds with eight, while senior Curvey Purkett added in another five boards.
The Eagles tried to reel in Clearfield in the third quarter, winning the stanza 14-13. But despite closing that gap to 10 points, Obama Academy ran out of time, as they would be outscored in the final quarter as many reserves got in some playing time. The Eagles only played a total of four games on the season, including Tuesday’s game against Clearfield, as Covid-related protocols halted a majority of their season.
Clearfield (20-5) moves into the quarterfinal round of the Class AAAA bracket as they will face Lincoln Park, the District 7 (WPIAL) champion, which will be played on Frida at 6:30 at Lincoln Park HS.
SCORE BY QUARTER
Clearfield 8 14 13 17 – 52
Obama Academy 6 4 15 10 – 35
CLEARFIELD – 52
Matt Pallo 3 0-0 6, Cole Miller 3 1-4 8, Ryan Gearhart 6 4-6 19, Nasheed Thompson 4 2-2 12, Curvey Purkett 1 1-4 3, Isakk Way 2 0-0 4, Jake Lezzer 0 0-0 0, Caleb Wilt 0 0-0 0, Braylon Way 0 0-0 0, Justin Fletcher 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 19 8-16 52.
OBAMA ACADEMY – 35
Yavier R 0 0-0 0, Sayon B 5 5-7 16, Jack R 2 0-0 5, Mikal C 1 0-1 2, Trevell T 0 0-0 0, Tyvon M 0 0-0 0, Teyron W 0 0-0 0, Bryce C 2 4-6 6, Jake G 0 0-0 0, May M 0 0-0 0, Reggie B 2 0-0 4, Jaden M 0 0-0 0, Tairie P 0 0-0 0, Michael H 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 12 9-14 35.