KARNS CITY, Pa. – Karns City won the D9 Class AA title in a tightly fought battle over Coudersport, 67-65.
Coudersport jumped ahead early, with their sharp shooting giving them a first-half edge. Karns City slowly found their way back into the game, taking the lead late in the third quarter and holding the lead late. The final minute was filled with drama, as Hayden Keck was fouled on a game-tying three-point attempt with one second remaining. Keck could not convert on his second of three free throws, allowing the Gremlins to secure the win.
Nathan Waltman and Chase Beighley led the way for the Gremlins, scoring 22 and 19 points, respectively. Luke Cramer added 13 for Karns City. Keck totaled 19 for the Falcons in the loss. Brandt Kightlinger scored 17 for Coudersport, while Derek Easton added 15.
The game began with pretty passing and finesse inside scoring, with Karns City looking to find Waltman in the high post while Coudersport used their speed to score in transition. The Falcons had the slight edge early on, taking a 9-7 lead with 4:00 remaining in the quarter. Coudersport built their lead to 10 lead by continuing to score in transition and getting hot behind the arc, with Kightlinger finding his touch from range. Coudersport’s late run put the Falcons led 22-12 after the first quarter.
The Falcons continued to score from range, hitting five threes in the first 10 minutes to keep their lead intact. Dalton Keglovits and Easton struck next from deep for Coudersport, growing the lead to 15. The Falcons continued to slow down the Karns City offense by forcing the Gremlins to settle for long-range opportunities, making it a challenge for Karns City to get back into the game. The Gremlins began their comeback effort late in the quarter, as their defense held the Falcons scoreless for the last two minutes of the half. Karns City put a dent in the deficit in the late minutes, cutting Coudersport’s lead to 36-27 after the first half of play.
Coudersport continued to force the issue by connecting on driving layup opportunities, upping their lead into double digits with 6:00 to go in the quarter. Both teams looked to play an aggressive brand of basketball as the period continued, with tons of contact down low. The style shift favored Waltman, who connected on a pair of opportunities down low to cut Coudersport’s lead to seven. The next two minutes were wild and frantically paced, and the Gremlins were able to thrive in the chaos as they cut the lead to two after a long Beighley three-pointer. Another three by Beighley gave the Gremlins their first lead of the second half, and Karns City ended the period on a 7-2 run to seize a 51-46 lead after three quarters.
Waltman Jostles for Position Inside
A Micah Rupp layup started the quarter for the Gremlins, but Keck answered with an equally composed play down low. Both teams exchanged buckets for the next three minutes, with the high level of play befitting of a District Final. Keck, Waltman, and Beighley all had highlight-reel buckets in the sequence. The Gremlins were able to preserve their lead through this period, holding a 61-56 advantage with 2:00 to go in the game. The Gremlins slowed the pace to attempt to waste some time, with Rupp connecting on a layup to up their lead to seven. A Coudersport score cut the lead back to five, and a steal by Easton gave the Falcons two more points at the line, reducing the deficit to three.
A missed Karns City free-throw and subsequent Gremlins foul put Coudersport back on the line for a one-and-one opportunity with 50 seconds to go. After knocking down one of two at the line, Beighley was fouled, giving him a chance at a one-and-one from the charity stripe. Beighley made both clutch free throws to make it a two-possession game with 30 seconds to go. Coudersport failed to convert on their next possession, but Karns City missed the front end of their one-and-one opportunity, keeping Coudersport in the game. The Falcons hit a huge three on their next possession, cutting the Gremlins’ lead to one with 10 seconds remaining. The Gremlins were able to inbound the ball and find Beighley, who was fouled and hit two free throws to bring the lead back up to three with five seconds to go. Needing a three to tie the game, Keck took the ball across half court and heaved up a desperation shot. The shot was well off the mark, but Keck was fouled on the play, giving him a chance to tie the game at the line with one second remaining. Keck hit the first free throw but missed his second attempt. After intentionally missing the third attempt, the rebound skipped loose, running out the clock and giving the Gremlins a hard-fought 67-65 victory.
Waltman and Beighley With the Big Prize
Karns City will advance to the opening round of the PIAA playoffs, where they will face Conemaugh Township on Wednesday, March 17 at 6:00 PM at Karns City High School.