STRATTANVILLE — Christian Smith, one of four seniors honored prior to the game, poured in a team-high 24 points including four 3-pointers while also grabbing seven rebounds in helping Clarion-Limestone snap a two-game losing streak in a 70-49 victory over Venango Catholic Tuesday night.
But most important was the help the Lions got from their arch-rival Clarion Bobcats, who beat North Clarion 55-48 to help clinch the Lions their fifth straight division title and sixth in the last seven years.
“That is always our goal coming in to every season is to try and win our division,” said Lions coach Joe Ferguson, who team improved to 16-5. “It’s never easy as we have some quality teams so anytime you can come away with that title it’s special. And to do it five straight times is pretty remarkable. All of the credit has to go to the kids that we have had on those teams to go out and get the job done on the court.”
The Lions are off until next Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Karns City, then play the KSAC title game at Clarion University next Friday.
Also Tuesday, Ian Callen netted 23 points with 13 rebounds and seven steals. Hayden Callen added 14 points with nine boards.
“We had a much better effort tonight than we had the past couple of games especially from a defensive standpoint,” said Ferguson. “I was very unhappy with the game we had last night so we had a meeting with the kids prior to tonight and I think they have a better understanding of what we are looking for and what they need to do in order to get to where we want to go.”
The Lions led 18-13 after the first quarter and 36-25 at halftime.
The Lions began the second half on an 8-0 run to push their lead to 44-25. Ben Gillispie stopped the Venango Catholic scoring drought with a basket at the 5:02 mark of the quarter. The Vikings closed to within 15 at 46-31 with three minutes to play in the quarter before the Lions finished the frame on an 11-2 run in pushing their lead to 24 at 57-33.
“We picked up our defensive intensity in that third quarter which allowed us to break things open,” said Ferguson.
Venango Catholic would hold a 16-13 scoring edge in the fourth quarter in setting the final score.
Smith, Kyle Kerle, Ian Hawthorn, and Nick Cyphert were the four seniors who were honored prior to the game.
“These guys work so hard out there and we are definitely going to miss them,” said Ferguson. “Christian has played a lot these past couple of years and he had a nice shot from the outside and he can also do some good things inside so he’s been very versatile for us. Kyle and Ian we rely on to give other guys a break and to match up defensively at times. They both do a real good job with what we ask of them. Nick has been a hard worker and he does what we ask of him.”
In other games:
MONDAY, Feb. 5
At Punxsutawney, Brandon Matthews, Tyler Richardson and Ethan Blose combined for 58 of the host Chucks’ points in a 24-point non-league win over the visiting Lions.
Matthews finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, Richardson added 19 points, and Blose finished 13.
Meanwhile, Ian Callen led the Lions with 20 points and Christian Smith added 17 points.
The first quarter was a see-saw battle throughout with the Chucks coming away with a 14-12 lead after one.
After a Smith basket early in the second tied the score at 14-all, the Chucks went on an 11-1 run to build a 25-15 lead. C-L eventually cut the lead to five at 29-24 after a Julian Laugand 3-pointer, but the Chucks still led 32-25 at halftime.
The Chucks pushed their lead to 14 at 52-38 by the end of the third quarter with a 20-12 scoring advantage in the quarter.
A 12-6 scoring edge through the first half of the fourth quarter would push the Chucks lead to 20 at 64-44. Over the last half of the quarter the Chucks would hold a 13-7 edge to set the final score.
Richardson scored 12 of his total in the fourth quarter.
Turnovers plagued the Lions as they committed 24.
North Clarion 66,
Hot shooting and good defense sparked North Clarion to a key KSAC-North 66-48 win over the Lions last Friday in the Lions’ Den.
The Wolves made 8 of 12 shots in the opening quarter in building a 21-11 lead after one quarter while the Lions made just 4 of 14 shots in the opening frame.
“They shot the ball well tonight and we didn’t,” said C-L head coach Joe Ferguson. “You have to give North Clarion credit as they came out and played a very good game and they deserved to win.”
Nathan Banner led North Clarion with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four blocks. Keevan Weaver added 10 points while Matson Higgins added nine.
Ian Callen led the Lions (15-4 overall, 8-1 KSAC North) with 22 points. Hayden Callen added 11, and Christian Smith seven.
The Wolves lead grew to as high as 17 at 32-15 in the second quarter. The Lions then cut the margin to 12 by the end of the first half in trailing 37-25.
C-L began third quarter on an 11-4 run to cut the Wolves’ lead to five at 41-36 with 3:33 to play in the quarter. A Hayden Callen three put a cap on the run and the Lions immediately called a timeout.
After the timeout, Banner answered with a three of his own for the Wolves to put the lead back to eight at 44-36.
The North Clarion bench was called for a technical foul at the end of the third quarter and Ian Callen made both free throws for a 44-38 North Clarion lead after three.
C-L then got the ball to start the fourth and an inside basket from Hayden Callen cut the deficit to four at 44-40. Once again the Wolves would have an answer as Logan Minich drained a 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven at 47-40.
After the Minich three, the Lions got no closer than six points at 48-42 the rest of the way. The Wolves went on an 11-2 run in pushing their lead to 59-44 with just under two minutes to play.
“When you get down early and expend so much energy it’s tough to come back,” said Ferguson. “We’ve been doing that lately in digging ourselves an early hoe and that is definitely something we need to get corrected. When we got it down to four, I thought if we could have gotten one more basket it would have put the pressure on them, but they hit that three which opened their lead back up it really hurt our chances.”
North Clarion also won the junior varsity contest 52-40 as Chase Schmader scored 10 points to lead the Wolves. Mitch Knepp led C-L with 13 points with Ayden Wiles adding nine.
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 31
C-L 103, Forest Area 64
Deion Deas, Christian Smith and Ian Callen collaborated for 89 of the Lions’ 103 points in their 103-64 victory over Forest Area last Wednesday. It was the Lions’ first 100-point performance since beating A-C Valley, 109-55, Jan. 25, 2002.
Deas and Smith each notched career-highs in points with 32 and 31 respectively which each also pulling down nine rebounds. Deas also handed out eight assists. Callen added 16 points, eight rebounds, 10 steals, and seven assists.
Seth Berlin paced the Fires with 30 points and 20 rebounds while Jarrett Kahle notched 13 points and eight rebounds.
Things didn’t start well for C-L (15-3 overall, 7-0 KSAC North) as the Fires jumped out to an 13-6 lead at the 4:24 mark. C-L fought back to tie the game at 14-all. A Berlin basket would give the Fires their last lead of the game at 16-14 before C-L would close the quarter on a 13-3 run over the final two minutes for a 27-19 lead after one.
After a Kahle 3-pointer cut the Lions lead to five at 27-22 to start the second, the Lions then began to pull away. Their lead grew to as high as 21 at 49-28 before settling for an 18-point halftime bulge of 55-37.
C-L would use a 33-12 advantage in the third to expand the lead to 88-49 and since the lead had grown to 40 prior to the end of the quarter the mercy rule running clock would be in effect the entire fourth quarter.
Each team scoreed 15 points in the fourth to set the final score.
C-L also recorded a 44-30 victory in the junior varsity game. Curvin Goheen scored 11 points to lead the Lions.