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GBB: Tenacious Keystone Powers Through North Clarion

FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. – The Keystone Panthers outscored North Clarion 20-9 in the second half en route to their second win of the season, toppling North Clarion 41-30. Keystone’s Emily Lauer led all scorers with 19 points, and Jozee Weaver added eight points. Gwen Siegel led North Clarion with eight points.

The game was highly physical, as both teams worked tirelessly to score inside. Ultimately, Keystone’s transition play and superior defense enabled the Panthers to pull away in the second half, neutralizing the Wolves’ post attack. Keystone head coach Josh Almes believes that his team’s renewed focus was vital in their defensive effort.

“It was our mental game. We had to update the way we were thinking about defense. We were a little passive in the first half and we were making some sloppy choices, so I tried to get [my team] refocused on things that I know they can do well. [In the second half] the girls really pushed each other to jump passing lanes, get tough rebounds, and not be intimidated by North Clarion’s size.” The Panthers did all those things in their win, and their overall tenacity is part of the reason why Keystone is 2-0 to begin 2021.

North Clarion started the game well, taking a 9-7 lead after the first quarter. The Wolves got most of their work done down low, using solid passing and persistent rebounding to score inside. Both teams aggressively looked to find their bigs in the post, but both defenses limited the inside scoring by clogging the interior passing lanes.

Early in the second quarter, North Clarion widened their lead to six, scoring on a pair of put backs after offensive rebounds. The Panthers then mounted a comeback, striking fast and upping the pace to score in transition. By playing quicker, the Panthers were able to create mismatches, freeing up opportunities for open shots.

Keystone’s fast pace was a part of Almes’ aggressive game plan.

“When you play North Clarion, one of the most historically successful programs in the area, you have to be physical, you have to attack, and you can’t be afraid of their success,” said Almes. His side certainly adopted this mentality in their second quarter comeback, outworking North Clarion to claw their way back into the contest. Lauer’s eight points led Keystone in the quarter, and the Panthers’ scoring rush left things all square at 21 at halftime.

The third period was tight defensively, with both teams shutting down any attempt at inside scoring. After Keystone jumped out to a quick lead, the North Clarion defense stiffened up, not allowing any points during the latter half of the quarter. Keystone’s early push was enough to take a 27-26 lead into the final period of play.

Keystone surged ahead in the fourth quarter, effectively using their transition game and smooth inbounding routines to score a series of easy baskets, seizing a seven point lead. With a minute and a half to go, North Clarion forced the Panthers to the foul line, and Keystone came up empty on their first one-and-one attempt. On their next attempt, the Panthers missed again, but Bowser came up with a huge putback score. The clutch bucket expanded Keystone’s lead to nine points, putting the game to bed and stunting North Clarion’s chance at a comeback.

Bowser had a limited influence on the first half due to foul trouble, but her dominant interior defense was vital in Keystone’s second half performance. Bowser’s resilience caught the attention of Almes.

“It’s tough when you pick up those early quick fouls, and it’s tough for a kid to bounce back. For me, [her performance] is a sign of a mentally tough person, and [Bowser] has given us a lot already this season.” Bowser’s solid work down the stretch sealed the deal on a 41-30 victory, giving the Panthers their second win of the season.