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SMOTHERING AND STIFLING: Defensive Pressure Helps Redbank Valley Maul West Shamokin in PIAA Class 2A Playoffs

KITTANNING, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Owen Clouse drained a 3-pointer, looked to the Redbank Valley bench and pounded his chest.

In the grand scheme of things, those three points early in the fourth quarter mattered little in a game that was already decided thanks to a smothering and stifling defensive effort by the Bulldogs.

Instead, the shot served as an exclamation point on a dominant Wednesday evening for the Redbank Valley boys basketball team in the second round of the PIAA Class 2A playoffs at Armstrong High School.

(Pictured above, Redbank Valley’s Owen Clouse guards West Shamokin’s Braydn Rodgers during the Bulldogs’ 54-21 win)

The Bulldogs mauled West Shamokin, limiting the Wolves to just eight field goals in the game and single-digit scoring in every quarter on the way to an eye-opening, 54-21 final.

“It was a great defensive effort,” said Redbank Valley coach Emmanuel Marshall. “We played good help defense and I’m proud of these boys. They played hard.”

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Alex Talmadge hit a 3-pointer for West Shamokin in the first minute of the game. That was the offensive highlight for the Wolves.

Redbank’s press gave West Shamokin, the third-place team out of District 6, fits all night. And even when the Wolves broke it and got into a half-court offense, the shots didn’t fall.

It was a master class in team defense.

“We just wanted to make it a point of emphasis that we’re a good team,” Marshall said. “We play good defense. We play team defense. We play team offense. Winning by 30 just shows everybody else in the state that we could play at that level.”

Redbank Valley started hot, building a 19-6 lead after one quarter, but struggled in the second quarter and entered the half up by just 10 at 23-13.

It was not a comfortable spot for the Bulldogs or for Marshall.

“That’s kind of where they want to be, in that 10-point range,” Marshall said. “When we came out (in the second half), we wanted some separation. Ten points is nothing when you’re in the state playoffs.”

But with the way Redbank was playing defense, 10 points might as well have been 100.

Somehow, West Shamokin’s offensive output got worse in the second half with just eight points over the final 16 minutes and just two in the fourth quarter with the game long decided.

Owen Clouse scored all 15 of his team-leading points in the second half for the Bulldogs. Mason Clouse added 14 and Breckin Minich 12 for Redbank.

Talmadge led West Shamokin with eight points.

Redbank Valley dialed up its defensive pressure even more after halftime and sprinted away from the Wolves, leading 41-19 after three and triggering the mercy rule at 53-21 on another 3-pointer by Owen Clouse in the fourth.

“The shots weren’t falling for me in the first half, but other people were shooting,” Owen Clouse said. “That’s how we win games — not just one person shooting, we all can. In the second half, they were just falling and that brings momentum. Definitely the 3-pointer, whenever we hit 3s, it brings momentum. That’s what we wanted to do — keep the foot on the pedal and no brakes.”

Mason Clouse was also pleased with how the defense played.

“That’s huge. They couldn’t handle the ball real well, so we decided to put the pressure on them,” Mason Clouse said. “Obviously they turned the ball over a lot, and that’s how we got out. We got out in transition and then we just got up.”

The pressure was the key.

“When we saw it was 13 (at the half), we were trying to keep it under 20,” Marshall said.

“In the first quarter, we wanted to come out and play pressure D — man, full court and put a little pressure on them,” Marshall added. “Get some turnovers, get our blood going, and we were able to get some steals and some transition buckets.”

Now Redbank Valley will try to recapture that defensive magic against District 7 champion Aliquippa in the quarterfinals on Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

“Time to shock the state,” Mason Clouse said.

Marshall said the overtime win over Northgate in the first round of the state playoffs gave the Bulldogs a sneak peek at what they will be up against when they square off against the Quips.

“Northgate is that same type of WPIAL structure and everything,” the coach said. “Playing against them really got us mentally focused and they understand now the speed of the game and how quick Aliquippa is going to be. We’re gonna be prepared. We’re gonna run real hard tomorrow and get ready because we have gas in the tank. I mean, we’ll try our best. We’ll do what we gotta do.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.