Brookville drops tough final against Smethport
CLARION — Brookville has had just one thing on its mind since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season: To be three-peat District IX Class AA champions.
The Raiders stormed to a successful 18-6 season, worked their way into the final for the third consecutive year and gave themselves the opportunity to achieve that goal.
But Friday night at Clarion University, Brookville met its match in the Smethport Hubbers (18-5), and the Hubbers captured their first District IX Class AA championship in school history by taking down Brookville, 47-38.
"I really think (Smethport) outplayed us pretty much the whole game," Raider head coach Bud Baughman said following the game. "I thought they played a smart game and a game under control, and we just kind of struggled tonight."
The Raiders trailed early and often in the opening half, but, as they consistently have this season, the Raiders picked up their game in the second half.
In the third quarter, Brookville found its first lead of the game, scoring two quick baskets after trailing by three at halftime.
The two teams traded a number of baskets in the waning minutes of the third quarter, but the Hubbers continued to lead by three heading into the final eight minutes.
"Well, (it was) lucky we were only down three at half," Baughman said. "Then in the second half, we went ahead, then they caught fire with some shots, and we had some turnovers."
Turnovers may have been one of the biggest differences for Brookville, especially late. The Raiders gave up just seven turnovers in the first half but committed thirteen in the latter 16 minutes.
"Near the end, we just made some stupid mistakes with the ball, where there was just no way the ball was going to get to where we needed it to go," Baughman said. "Unfortunately, that happens."
In the fourth quarter, the Hubbers went on a 6-3 scoring run, opening the gap to 37-31, which Baughman said was the biggest turning point in the game.
Smethport's Zach Smith was strong in the final minutes of the game, and he totaled 16 on the evening.
"I really think that down the stretch, their big kid (Smith) made shots," Baughman said. "I really think (Friday night) the people that I didn't think were going to hurt us did hurt us, and that's credit to (Smethport head coach Dan) Zeigler getting his guys ready."
Once the Hubbers gained that six-point lead, the Raiders could never recover, and Smethport went on to win the championship.
Despite losing the game, Baughman had nothing bad to say about the Raiders and their efforts in the final game.
"I told them I was proud of them," Baughman said. "I didn't think (the loss) was from a lack of effort. I just think it was one of those nights where … we just got outplayed. The better team won tonight. … Credit to Smethport, they played well, but credit to Brookville, because we played hard."
The Raiders' leading scorer was again Zane Hackett, who earned another double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. But Brookville's second-highest scorers were Austin Burney and Seth Connor, who each had four.
Suffering from the loss of senior Tighe Truman to a wrist injury has been a big problem for Brookville, especially in the scoring department.
"It's been a glaring problem since Tighe went out, but you have to deal with it," Baughman said. "As a coach, I have to try to find a way to get more scoring out of our kids, and (Friday night), we didn't get it done."
Although the Raiders did not achieve their ultimate goal with a three-peat, Baughman said he has been extremely proud of the way Brookville has played, especially given his reservations at the start of the season.
"Well, it was a completely different group of kids," Baughman said. "I think at the beginning of the year, if someone told me we were going to win 18 games, I would've said, 'I don't think so.' But there's a lot of teams sitting at home, and we're still playing, so I think that's great for Brookville basketball."
The Raiders' season is not quite over, though, as making it to the championship guaranteed their spot in the PIAA State playoffs.
Brookville will face the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League's (WPIAL) No. 3 seed, which will either be Greensburg Central Catholic or Sto-Rox.
"That's going to be a long trip somewhere and probably a game twice as hard as the one we just had, so it's going to be a challenge," Baughman said. "But I know the kids will be ready to play. … The big thing is the experience, and hopefully, the kids will enjoy it."
The opening round of the state playoffs will take place next Saturday at a time and venue to be decided.