KARNS CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Gwen Siegel came off the court, blood flowing in a steady stream from her left nostril.
Siegel, a standout forward on the North Clarion girls basketball team, had taken a shot to the nose during one of the many scrums during a physical battle against Karns City Wednesday night.
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Nothing new for Siegel or the Wolves.
That’s been their M.O. this season — physical play, tough defense, gutting things out.
With the bleeding staunched, Siegel returned just a few minutes later and finished off her 17-point, 14-rebound game as North Clarion downed the host Gremlins, 39-25.
“I’m surprised they let me back in the game,” Siegel said, smiling.
Like most of North Clarion’s games this season, this one was a battle of attrition. The Wolves (11-3) have given up 33 or fewer points 11 times and are 10-1 in those games.
The only loss was a 32-28 setback against Redbank Valley last week.
That defense was at it again against Karns City, holding the Gremlins to a mere 11 points through three quarters.
“We’ve been focusing on shutting down offenses,” said North Clarion coach Terry Dreihaup. “We’ve been primarily man-to-man, but we’ve been playing into some zone to see how it works. The last few games it’s worked really well, and tonight it worked real well again. We just shut out their outside shooting.”
Karns City, though, led 5-0 before North Clarion finally scored its first points more than five minutes into the game.
But that kickstarted a 16-0 run that gave the Wolves a 16-5 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.
That was all North Clarion’s stingy defense needed.
“We came out flat and that team took it to us,” said Karns City coach Steve Andreassi. “They just took it to us from the beginning to the end. That team out-physical-ed us, out quick-ed us, out-boarded us. All the credit goes to them.
“Their three guards are very active,” Andreassi added. “They had all the bases covered. The skip pass was there, but when we tried it, we threw it away.”
Turnovers plagued the Gremlins (7-7).
Karns City had eight in the first quarter, 16 by halftime and 22 through three quarters.
It wasn’t until the fourth that the offense got into rhythm. Emma Jons scored eight of her nine points in the final quarter, but by then, it was too late.
The closest the Gremlins could come to the lead was 13. North Clarion then scored six straight points to put the advantage back to 19 with three minutes remaining.
Siegel had a huge part in building the lead and then keeping it.
She had six key points in the fourth quarter.
“I know being a senior, I have to step up,” Siegel said.
Siegel said some of the tough losses North Clarion has endured — the Wolves have lost two games by four points and another by three — has helped toughen the team up for games like the one against Karns City.
“Those losses have made us keep pushing,” Siegel said.
Siegel certainly isn’t one to back down.
“Playing as a freshman into my sophomore and junior years with the older girls helped me,” Siegel said. “I know I have to make a statement on the court. I have to help lead these girls to a win — any way it takes.”
If that means taking a shot to the face, so be it.
(Siegel smiles as she holds an icepack to her face after a grueling game against Karns City)
“She comes to play every night,” Dreihaup said of Siegel. “She’s a tough player. She’s playing really well right now, and I’m proud of the way she’s sticking with everything and fighting. Her teammates are finding her and she’s finding them.”
Claire Kriebel added eight points for North Clarion and Lauren Lutz, another big presence inside, came off the bench to score six.
“(Lutz) is playing really well,” Dreihaup said. “She’s an asset to have on the court.”
Emma Dailey also scored nine points for Karns City. Dailey has given the Gremlins some good minutes off the bench this season.
“She’s becoming a more physical player and getting up and down the court more because she’s so athletic,” Andreassi said. “Tonight, she showed that tremendously. She’s working hard on getting that ball in the hoop, and she’s getting better and better at that each day.”
Despite the loss, Andreassi said he’s not discouraged about how his team is playing going forward.
“In preparation leading up to this, we had all the confidence and knew (North Clarion) was going to run that (zone) — we saw them on film against two or three other teams,” Andreassi said. “They just upped the ante on us. They were flying all over the place. They played their best game of the year right there.
“I’m not going to wane in my belief in those girls in that locker room,” Andreassi added. “Our effort was still there.”