BROCKWAY — The Brockway boys basketball team celebrated Senior Night in style Monday, pulling out a thrilling 71-67 victory against Clarion in a battle of teams looking to make a late-season push for a spot in the postseason.
Brockway (8-13) honored its three seniors — Zane Puhala, Clayton Heckman and Matthew Clark — prior to the game — then duked it out for four quarters against the Bobcats.
After Brockway scored the opening point on a free throw by Puhala, Clarion control the action for the first two and half quarters. The Bobcats led 20-16 after one quarter before pushing their lead to as many as 10 (30-20) midway through the second quarter.
However, Brockway cut that deficit back down to four again (35-31) at the half as Clark and teammate Alec Freemer each hit 3-pointers in the final two minutes.
Brockway, which held the Bobcats to just six points in the third quarter, finally got over the hump and regained the lead 41-39 when Puhala scored off a turnover with 1:12 left in the period.
Clarion (10-11) countered with a quick hoop by Cal German before the momentum swung in Brockway’s favor in the closing seconds. Puhala scored inside with six seconds on the clock, then promptly stole the Bobcats inbounds pass and scored again just before the buzzer to give the Rovers a 45-41 lead after three quarters.
Brockway carried that momentum in the fourth, getting hoops from Noah Adams, Puhala and Jon Wood to go up seven (51-43). The Rovers eventually pushed their lead to 11 (64-53) on an old-fashion 3-point play by Freemer with 2:45 remaining.
The teams then traded baskets, with Rover Marcus Copelli scoring twice inside to help Brockway maintain that 11-point cushion (68-57) with 1:37 to play. Clarion had one more run left in it though, as the Bobcats used a 10-2 spurt to get back within three points (70-67) with 10 seconds to go.
That’s as close as Clarion got though, as Brockway hit just enough free throws in the fourth quarter (6 of 13) to hold off the Bobcats for the four-point victory. Brockway was 12 of 21 at the free throw line overall, while the Bobcats were 7 of 8.
Freemer scored a game-high 28 points to help fuel the Brockway win. Puhala also reached double figures with 18, while Heckman added seven and Clark five on their Senior Night.
“I was a good game, and I thought both teams played well,” said Rovers coach Rick Clark. “There was a good temp to the game with both teams making shots. It was an entertaining game between two teams fighting to get into the playoffs.
“Coming off a tough one Friday night (66-26 loss at Ridgway), we got a big won on road Saturday (69-58 win at Kane) and come here on Senior Night and get the job done. We found a way after we were down early to keep grinding and chipping away. We stuck to the plan and moved the ball and played good defense.
“I thought all three seniors played excellent on Senior Night. Matthew hit a couple early shots, and Clayton got a couple early steals and played really good defense. Zane had another good all around game playing defense, scoring and handling the ball. And, they got enough complimentarily play from Jonny (Wood), Alec (Freemer) and Marcus (Copelli).”
Brockway struggled to hit open shots in the first half but used a stifling defense to created eight first-half turnovers that created some transition layups to keep the Rovers within striking distance.
Freemer and German each got off to strong starts, with the Rover scoring seven first-quarter points and German six. However, Clarion got four points each from Frederick, Archer Mils and Jake Burns as it grabbed a four-point lead after one quarter.
Bobcat Tijon Faulk-Taylor hit a 3-pointer to open the second quarter before Puhala and Freemer scored for Brockway to make it 23-20 just past the 6-minute mark.
A 3-pointer by Mills sparked a 7-0 spurt by Clarion that put the Bobcats up 10 (30-20) at the midway point of the quarter. Brockway promptly cut that lead in half as Freemer scored five straight points in a span of 28 seconds.
Clark and Freemer each then hit treys in the final two minutes to help get Brockway with four (35-31) at the break. Freemer had 10 points in the second quarter.
Heckman opened the second in the third quarter on a 3-pointer, while a free throw by Jon Wood pulled the Rovers even at 35-35. The teams then traded scores, with four straight points by Brockway — two free throws by Freemer and a hoop by Puhala — finally out the Rovers back on top at 41-39.
Puhala’s two baskets in the final six seconds of the quarter propelled the Rovers to a strong surge to begin the fourth.
However, German did hit best to bring the Bobcats back as he scored 12 of his 24 points in the final five and half minutes of the game. Jake Burns also scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth for Clarion, but it still wasn’t enough as the duo of Freemer and Puhala helped the Rovers hold off the Bobcats.
Freemer scored nine points in the fourth, while Puhala had seven. Copelli also scored two key baskets inside in the final two-plus minutes to help hold off Clarion. Copelli finished with six points.
Brockway closes out the regular season Wednesday at home against Clarion-Limestone.