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TWO FOR TWO: Karns City Girls Win Back-to-Back District 9 Class 3A Championships

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s been a season full of adversity for the Karns City girls basketball team.

Right out of the gate, injuries piled up. Then the big one at midseason when starting point guard and leading scorer, junior guard Chloe Fritch, went down with a season-ending knee injury.

(Pictured above, senior Hannah Buchanan celebrates with teammates after Karns City won its second straight District 9 Class 3A crown)

Then there were the close losses. Overtime setbacks. Leads squandered.

Through it all, the Gremlins persevered.

It’s been a season of staunch defense, too, from Karns City. Smothering, hounding, relentless defense. It was so again in the District 9 Class 3A championship game against Brookville on Thursday night at Tippin Gymnasium in a 36-20 win.

The Raiders shot 20% from the floor as Karns City claimed its second straight D9 crown.

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“It feels good, especially whenever we came out and just dominated on the defensive end,” said junior guard Brooklynn Taylor. “We had some troubles on our offensive end, but the defense won that game like it has most of our games.”

It’s back-to-back titles for the Gremlins. Two in two seasons. Players held up two fingers after the win.

Two has been a significant number at Karns City High School this season.

It’s the jersey number worn by Mason Martin, the senior football player for the Gremlins who suffered a serious brain injury during a game on Sept. 1.

Martin continues to battle back from that injury in a Pittsburgh hospital.

That was not lost on the Karns City players and coaches.

“It’s the second. Back-to-back,” said Karns City coach Steve Andreassi. “That’s two. That’s a pretty significant number in Karns City with Mason Martin. That’s why we held up the two at the end.”

It was also a satisfying win after last year’s 28-21 victory over Kane.

Andreassi said he thought his team played much better in this championship game as opposed to the first.

“This group has been together for a lot of years,” Andreassi said. “They’ve been putting a lot of hard work on since they’ve been little girls in elementary school. Last year, we weren’t satisfied with how we did it. This year, we were very much satisfied. That was a commanding victory and a defensive-tone victory.”

Karns City got the offense it needed in the first half from Naomi Venesky.

Venesky helped get the Gremlins on their way with a strong first half. She hit three 3-pointers and scored 13 of her 15 points in the opening two quarters.

It helped mitigate what was a slog of a game offensively for both teams.

“It definitely felt good because it started our offense off,” Venesky said. “The defense, everyone was helping each other. When someone was driving, we had someone stepping over. It helped a lot. It also means a lot because it’s our second one together. All as one, like usual.”

Karns City jumped out to a 12-2 lead after the first quarter and led 22-10 at the half.

The Gremlins increased their lead to 32-16 by the end of the third quarter and cruised to the championship.

Taylor added seven points.

She also handled the ball well, breaking Brookville’s press and running the offense.

Taylor also navigated foul trouble.

“I’m used to it,” Taylor said, smirking. “I foul a lot.”

For Brookville, it was a frustrating night.

The Raiders had played well in a regular-season meeting with Karns City, falling by a point at home.

In that game, Brookville got into the paint and got to the rim. Not so much on Thursday night in the championship game as the Gremlins locked up the inside with Hannah Buchanan, Savanna Prescott and Venesky doing some heavy defensive lifting.

“Their defensive pressure cause us problems all night,” said Brookville coach Mark Powell. “One thing we knew about Karns City coming in was they played good defense. I thought if we could just get (the deficit) under 10, things could start to change a little bit.”

That never happened for the Raiders.

Eden Wonderling scored six points to lead Brookville, which made just seven shots from the floor.

Karns City will now play Chestnut Ridge at Tippin Gym on March 1 in a PIAA subregional game.

The Gremlins lost to Chestnut Ridge last season in that round.

“We’re not a revenge type of team, but that’s our goal — to go beyond where we went last year,” Andreassi said.

Winning the D9 title again was certainly the first step.

And one that didn’t come easily.

“It started from the very beginning. Injuries,” Andreassi said. “We battle the very first game of the year. Brooklynn was battling a hamstring. Naomi got hurt in that first game with a bruised shin. Chloe and Savanna (Prescott) didn’t dress with their injuries. That’s the way this year seemed to be.

“I couldn’t be any more proud of what they overcame this year,” Andreassi added. “What the resiliency these girls have shown, despite adversity all season long, has made me the proudest coach I could ever be. I’ve never felt more pride than I have with this group.”

Karns City and Moniteau sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by ThinkDolphin Web Design.