CLARION — A third matchup with backyard rival Clarion didn’t go like the first two games for the Clarion-Limestone Lions basketball team in Thursday night’s District 9 Class AA quarterfinals at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium.
After a regular-season sweep of the Bobcats, the Lions couldn’t make it three in a row, running out of gas in the second half of a 61-43 loss. While the season ends at 17-7 for the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference champion Lions, the Bobcats (17-6) head to next week’s semifinals against top-seeded and unbeaten Ridgway at a site and time to be announced.
It was 27-27 at halftime before Clarion outscored C-L, 10-4, in the third quarter. The Lions didn’t make a shot from the field until just over a minute left in the quarter.
“I think we lost our legs,” Lions head coach Joe Ferguson said. “We couldn’t hit a shot and that happened against teams we played this year. When you wear them down by pressing, their legs are starting to go in the third quarter and I really think that was one of the big keys. We couldn’t knock shots down. We couldn’t even make free throws.”
The Bobcats never trailed in the second half, finishing the game on an 8-0 run over the final 1:38 for what was also their largest lead.
“I’m very proud that they came out in the second half and took control of that game,” said Bobcats coach and C-L graduate Jess Quinn.
Cam Craig came out firing and scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the first quarter while Calvin German scored 15 points. Austin Hummell scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
The Lions were playing without their leading scorer in junior Ian Callen, who reached the 1,000-point milestone last week. He missed the game because of a missionary trip out of the country. He would’ve been back for the Lions had they gotten past Clarion.
“You can’t replace that, but we have a saying with the team ‘No explanations, no excuses,’” Ferguson said. “We’re not going to use that as a basis. It’s tough losing him, but we played a good game.”
Christian Smith led the Lions with 15 points and eight rebounds. Deion Deas and Hayden Callen each scored 10 points with Callen finishing off a double-double with 10 rebounds.
While Quinn will take his Bobcats’ playoff win, he didn’t overlook the missing Callen.
“(The win) will always have an asterisk beside it though without Ian. We know that,” Quinn said. “I talked to his mom afterward and I can’t tell you the respect I have for a 17-year-old kid where basketball means the world to him, but takes time to go better somebody else’s life, it’s huge. It’s good to get a win against C-L, but everybody realizes Ian wasn’t there.”