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GRITTY GREMLINS: Karns City Builds Big Lead, Then Holds Off Clarion to Advance to the KSAC Final

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Shane Peters has had some huge games this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior on the Karns City boys basketball team had a 40-point, 19-rebound night a month ago against Venango Catholic. He’s averaging nearly a double-double this season.

Peters came up big again when the Gremlins needed him the most.

(Pictured above, Karns City’s Shane Peters was named the KSAC Boys Basketball Semifinal Player of the Game/photo by Owen Krepps)

Peters scored 18 points to go with 13 rebounds as Karns City held off Clarion, 61-58, in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference tournament semifinals at PennWest Clarion’s Tippin Gymnasium on Friday night.

Peters found his shooting touch on short jumpers. He also had several put-backs as seven of his 13 boards were on the offensive end.

“The last couple of games we’ve been getting killed on the boards,” Peters said. “We came into this game knowing we needed to get the boards and that was going to be a (key) point to this game. That was my big job.”

Peters did it well.

Clarion Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

“He’s been huge on the glass all year,” said Karns City coach Zach Kepple. “That’s been a huge aspect to our offensive game, grabbing those boards and putting them right back up strong. That’s his role. That’s kind of been what he’s been doing and he’s been playing good defense. He had a huge night tonight.”

Peters also found his range, hitting seven-footers from the wing.

“I’ve been struggling all year making shots, and that finally clicked,” Peters said. ‘Tonight I was finally able to make those shots.”

Peters scored 12 points in the first half to help Karns City build a 38-22 lead with a little more than a minute remaining in the second quarter.

But Clarion closed the half on a quick 6-0 run, punctuated by a dunk by Devon Lauer, to go into the break down just 10.

Karns City spent the rest of the night desperately holding on to the lead.

“We didn’t handle either end-of-quarter situation very well,” Kepple said. “We could have went into the half up 16, but we went in only up by 10 and they had all the momentum because of the dunk.”

Karns City nursed that 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, leading 57-47. That’s when the Gremlins went into a scoring drought.

But the defense made up for it at the other end.

Clarion got the lead down to three at 59-56 late, but Taite Beighley hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to give the Gremlins a two-possession lead at 61-56.

The Bobcats fired up several 3-pointers that missed the mark before Dawson Smail got a steal and layup with less than two seconds on the clock to trim the deficit to three.

Karns City lobbed the inbound pass to half court, where it was batted around as time expired.

It wasn’t a pretty fourth quarter for the Gremlins, but they did enough to advance to the championship game against Clarion-Limestone on Saturday, It’s a rematch of last year’s KSAC title game and reunites Lions’ coach Pat Craig with his alma mater.

“We just kind of gutted it out,” Kepple said. “We held on for the win. I was proud of the way the guys played tonight.”

Beighley added 13 points and Jacob Callihan 10 for Karns City.

Gabe Simko led Clarion with 16 points. Bryce Brinkley added 15 and Lauer pitched in 10 for the Bobcats.

The bottom two seeds — No. 3 Karns City and No. 4 C-L — will play for the title.

Kepple is certainly happy to have a chance at the championship again. Last year, the Gremlins fell to the Lions.

“Some coaches don’t luke the conference playoffs because it’s extra games and the wear and tear,” Kepple said. “But I like it. It prepares us. Our conference is really competitive. We have a chance to play C-L and Redbank in the (District 9) playoffs, so it’s an opportunity to get a feel for them before the district playoffs roll around.”

Clarion Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.