FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Gwen Siegel squirmed on the North Clarion bench.
It’s the last place she wanted to be.
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Picking up a fourth foul just a minute into the fourth quarter will relegate just about any player to the bench and the North Clarion senior looked on with a degree of frustration as her team tried to hold on to a five-point lead against gritty Clarion in the District 9 Class A quarterfinals Thursday night.
Siegel, though, need not worry.
“It’s actually a common thing for me, unfortunately, to get into foul trouble,” Siegel said, smirking. “My team just knows that they need to step up if I can’t be in there and they did a good job of that tonight.”
By the time Siegel returned with a little less than three minutes remaining in the game, the lead was still five and the Wolves pulled away in the the waning moments for a 39-30 win.
“I thought Lauren (Lutz) and Maddie McFarland played really well off the bench tonight,” said North Clarion coach Terry Dreihaup. “Emily (Aites) gave us some real good minutes and scored a couple of buckets that really helped.”
Nothing helped the Wolves more, though, than their foul shooting.
North Clarion was 8 of 8 from the line in the fourth quarter as neither team made a field goal in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Meanwhile Clarion was 5 of 10 from the line in the fourth.
“I thought the key was making foul shots,” Dreihaup said. “That’s what won us the game, so I was really proud.”
(Gwen Siegel was named the Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)
So was Siegel, who was 7 of 8 from the line in the game and finished with a game-high 17 points. She also had nine rebounds.
“It feels good to keep winning,” Siegel said. “It’s just gonna keep getting harder, and we know that. We just have to keep working harder and fix all of our little mistakes.”
Clarion, coming off an upset win over two-time defending champion Coudersport on Tuesday, started hot, building a 7-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
But North Clarion went on a 15-2 run to make it 17-9 with a little more than five minutes remaining in the first half.
Amya Green hit a big 3-pointer during the run and was also a terror on defense.
Green, a senior guard, does a lot of work for the Wolves that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, and she did that again Thursday night.
“Amya has a good game every night,” Dreihaup said. “You may not see it in the box score, but she does so many other things besides score. She had a nice 3-pointer tonight from the corner that was a big boost. She’s just a great player. I’m gonna miss her when she graduates.”
Clarion coach Jess Quinn is going to miss his senior guard, Jordan Best, who helped the Bobcats cut the North Clarion lead to 17-16 at the half.
But Clarion (10-11) could never pull ahead.
North Clarion (20-4) opened the second half with a quick 5-0 run and the closest the Bobcats could get was 31-28 not long after Siegel left the court.
It wasn’t from a lack of trying, but the Wolves defense — especially in the paint — was formidable again.
“I thought it was (a chance to make a run at them with Siegel on the bench),” Quinn said. “We had a couple of shots on the block, a couple of shots in the middle. I didn’t think we took enough. We didn’t convert the ones on the block. Again, you know, everything was contested down low.”
Best led Clarion with 11 points.
Despite the loss that ended the season, Quinn was pleased with how his team competed.
“Some of the girls were upset with themselves, and I said, ‘Listen. There wasn’t one thing that we did, OK? There were just little things here and there.’ I said to be honest, in my opinion, that’s probably a District 9 semifinal team, a runner-up or champ, and we took them to the wire.”
Emma McFarland added nine points for North Clarion and Green pitched in seven.
The Wolves will play either Otto-Edlred or Union Tuesday in the semifinals at a site and time to be determined. They are guaranteed a spot in the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Siegel is just happy she won’t have to see Clarion again.
“Kudos to them for having that drive that they have,” Siegel said. “Playing a team four times can be a little on the frustrating side.”
Siegel has the same drive as she has precious few games left in a North Clarion uniform.
“Being a senior, I just want to go out with a bang,” she said.