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In the Final Again: North Clarion Defense Stifles Karns City in KSAC Semifinal

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Losing three out of five games in early January didn’t concern Gwen Siegel.

There was no panic in Frills Corners.

“When we took our third loss, we were like, ‘OK. That’s it. We’re done losing,’” said Siegel, a senior forward on the North Clarion girls basketball team. “We’ve won every single one since.”

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That streak included a defensive clinic by Siegel and the Wolves against Karns City in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference semifinals Thursday night at Clarion University.

North Clarion held Karns City to just two points in the second quarter and shut out the Gremlins in the fourth on the way to a 33-22 win.

It’s another trip to the KSAC championship game for the Wolves, who won the Small Division title this season for the seventh consecutive year.

North Clarion will play Redbank Valley at 6 p.m. Saturday at Tippin Gymnasium.

“It means so much,” Siegel said. “I mean, we were first place in the North last year, but they didn’t have a KSAC championship game. So we knew we had to come back and get it this year. And Saturday — fingers crossed.”

Siegel had a big part in getting North Clarion back to the final.

She scored 10 points, but her real impact came on the defensive end. She had 17 rebounds and three blocked shots. More importantly, she helped stifle Karns City’s renewed offensive mojo.

The Gremlins had made an effort recently to get the ball into the post and has had great success during a stretch of six wins in seven games. This time around, though, the paint was bottled up.

“With their height and their ball-hawking abilities, it’s a little tougher to get the ball inside,” said Karns City coach Steve Andreassi. “We also talked preparation for this game that, yes, you’re going to get the ball inside and you have a 6-footer and a 6-foot-2 girl in there and you’re going to have to kick it out and reset. We tried the high-low and work the ball in, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.”

Karns City jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but North Clarion scored the next seven points and carried a 15-13 lead into the half.

(Gwen Siegel was named Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game.)

The Wolves (19-3) extended that lead to 20-13 three minutes into the second quarter and threatened to run away and hide from the Gremlins (13-9).

Karns City regrouped, closing the gap to just one points at 23-22 by the end of the third.

Then North Clarion’s defense clamped down.

“Defense won us the game,” said North Clarion coach Terry Dreihaup. “We couldn’t get the ball into the hoop and we were struggling to get the ball inside and we were making some pretty awful passes. But defensively, when you hold a team under 30, I’m pretty happy about that.”

Emma McFarland also came up big for the Wolves.

She hit three 3-pointers and led the team with 11 points. All three of her 3s were daggers.

“They were at good times,” Dreihaup said. “They were in really good times of the game. But we have to do better. We have to quit making silly mistakes and throwing the ball away. Because if we do that Saturday night (in the final), it could be a different ballgame.”

Freshman Cameryn Booher gave Karns City a spark off the bench with eight points.

Brooke Manuel and Rossi McMillen each added six for the Gremlins, who were playing with house money, Andreassi said.

“This was bonus time,” Andreassi said. “It’s a bonus round for us and good preparation to see what the atmosphere is like up here, hopefully in the district playoffs. We’ll be ready.”

So will North Clarion, which hopes to keep this winning streak going deep into the District 9 — and state — playoffs.

Siegel said the Wolves learned a lot from that little midseason hiccup.

“If it was going to happen, it’s good it happened in January and not now,” Siegel said. “We used that to help us move forward and keep pushing.”

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