HYDE — After St. Marys took a brief 9-8 lead in the first quarter of Wednesday’s District 9 Class 4A boys basketball semifinal at Bison Gymnasium, Clearfield quickly regained the advantage and upped its lead to 18-12 by the end of the frame.
The Bison never trailed again, leading by as many as 15 in the second quarter, and held off a furious St. Marys rally to score a 60-57 victory.
Clearfield’s pinpoint accuracy from the free throw line, especially in the fourth quarter, countered Dutchmen senior Nathan Schneider’s 36-point outburst.
The Bison were 22-of-29 from the charity stripe in the game, and went 15-of-20 in the fourth, keeping the Dutch behind them by five or seven points much of the quarter.
“That was the difference in the game,” Clearfield head coach Nate Glunt said. “What a time to have that. We shot 74 percent from the line in practice this week. We track all our foul shots in practice, and the kids did a good job coming out and executing.”
Reese Wilson went 9-of-10 in the fourth quarter from the foul line and Ryan Chew connected on 5 of his 6 free throws down the stretch.
“They were absolutely phenomenal,” Glunt said. “Clutch. Those two kids were 14-of-16. That’s just amazing to have that mental toughness in this environment. And what an environment. Packed house. St. Marys brought a lot of people.
“But, we had a lot of fans here too. Great student section supporting us. It was an awesome high school basketball game.
Clearfield led 18-12 after one quarter, thanks to a balanced scoring effort.
Jon Gates scored five points, Cade Walker added four, and four other Bison scored at least a field goal.
Schneider kept the Dutch in the game, scoring 9 of their 12 first-quarter points and totaling 13 of the 17 St. Marys had at the half. Schneider was 6-of-13 from the floor in the first half, while the rest of the Dutch went 1-of-8.
“We didn’t make shots,” St. Marys head coach Shad Boschert said. “Credit to Clearfield. They played good defense. There were a lot of nerves out there on our end.
“I’m proud of my guys for battling in the second half.”
In addition to the Bison defense, they were also able to connect from behind the arc, something they’ve struggled with down the stretch.
Gates hit two from behind the arc, while Chew and Wyatt Porter each drilled one as Clearfield hit 4-of-5 from long distance in the first half, helping them build the 11-point advantage (28-17) at the break.
St. Marys came out in a zone and employed a full court press to start the second half and quickly whittled the Bison lead to six. But Clearfield was able to figure things out and kept it a 6-point advantage for most of the third quarter.
Schneider heated up in the third, scoring three field goals and three free throws to help the Dutch cut their deficit all the way to 39-35 late in the third.
But Chew hit a bucket right before the end of the quarter to up the Bison lead back to six, 41-35.
Despite the momentum swing at the end of the third, the Dutch kept coming at the Bison.
Schneider scored 14 points in the quarter and finished the game with 36 to go with 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
St. Marys also got a big contribution from Anthony Cortina, who netted 6 points in the final quarter. He also ripped down eight rebounds — five offensive — and blocked five shots.
Despite the Dutch scoring 22 in the final quarter, they struggled to cut into the Bison lead, due to Clearfield being in the double bonus early in the frame and the hosts shooting lights out from the stripe.
St. Marys did catch a break late in the fourth when Schneider got an offensive rebound off a missed Dutch free throw and laid it in to cut the deficit to 58-55.
After Wilson and Schneider traded a pair of free throws each, Clearfield missed a pair of foul shots with 10.8 seconds left in the game, giving St. Marys hope.
But a 3-pointer rimmed out and Cortina’s putback attempt off another offensive board was too strong and the clock ran out as the teams fought for the final rebound of the game.
St. Marys outrebounded the Bison 35-23, thanks in large part to a 14-5 advantage in the fourth.
St. Marys closes its season with a record of 12-10.
Clearfield (14-9) advances to the D-9 title game against Bradford at a date, site and time to be determined. The Owls beat Punxsutawney, 37-30, in the other semi Wednesday night.