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ST. MARYS â€” The Punxsy Chucks rode a five-game winning streak into St. Marys for a District-IX league game against the Flying Dutchmen, and in what Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal called a "flat out war," the Chucks headed home with six in a row with a 44-38 win.
"It was a blood bath," Neal said. "We had two starters foul out in Garrett Zimmerman and Alex Fedigan early in the fourth quarter."
Punxsy's sharp-shooting sophomore Brandon Mancuso also missed the game due to illness, but Neal said his squad stepped up and did what they had to do to earn the victory.
"We had so many guys come off the bench and do just what they had to do for us," Neal said. "We weren't hesitant to turn to them, and everyone stepped up to help us get this win."
Neal said Punxsy went deeper on its bench than it usually would, and noted that Devin Nicholson, Cory Geer, Jesse Venturini, Clayton Dale and Tim Pearce all stepped up and played their roles well.
Another strength for the Chucks was late free throw shooting, as the Chucks went to the line 17 times in the fourth quarter alone, and hit 12 of the shots to pull away from the Dutchmen.
Punxsy jumped out to an early 15-6 lead after a dominant first quarter, but the Chucks struggled in the second, losing the quarter 10-4 to St. Marys, but the Chucks still led 19-16 at the half.
"They started trapping and chipping away and taking us out of things we were trying to do," Neal said. "They did a good job. It's just a matter of time with a team like that. They'll win their share of games, so we were happy to get out of there with a win."
One player's performance stood out to Neal in Ian Miller, who stepped in to relieve Mancuso as a starter.
Miller had nine points, good enough for second-best on the team, but what stood out most to Neal was Miller's 5-for-5 from the line, with each of the free throws coming in the fourth quarter.
"Just the fact that Mancuso was sick with the flu, and Ian stepped in to start and played as well as he did is huge," Neal said.
Other plays that stood out in the game for Neal were a pair of charge calls that went in the Chucks' favor.
In the third quarter, Luke Janocha took a charge that Neal said turned the momentum, and in the fourth, bench player Cory Geer took a key charge on a basket that ended up falling but not counting.
"We knew it'd be tough up there," Neal said. "They've been struggling and lost on the road Monday night to Elk County Catholic."
Senior guard Justin Quiggle scored 24 for St. Marys in that contest, but Punxsy held him to three points on one three-pointer, which Neal said was a big basket. But he gave credit to his defenders, saying guarding Quiggle was a team effort, and senior Daniel Triponey was one of many who guarded him throughout the game.
The game was huge for Punxsy, Neal said, heading into another district matchup with Bradford Friday night in Punxsutawney.
"Our goal going into the season was to try to steal some on the road and protect our house at home, such as wins over Harmony and this one tonight," Neal said. "We come back for homecoming Friday, and we can't wait. People on the streets are starting to get interested, and where we sit, we like what we've done. But it's a long season, and we have a lot ahead of us, too."
Triponey was the Chucks' high-scorer with 15 points, and Fedigan and Miller followed with nine.
St. Marys' Jim Werner was the game's top-scorer with 17, including 11 on foul shots.
In the JV contest, Punxsy had another impressive performance, with the Chucks dominating in a 55-23 win.
The Chucks led 26-10 at half, and their defense never alllowed the Dutch back into the game.
Punxsy's Tyler Young led the way with 15 points, including three three-pointers.
Michael Klingensmith had 10 points for the Chucks, with Nicholson (8), Geer (7), Will Curtis (7) Matt Burkett (6) and Clayton Dale (2) also scoring for Punxsy.
The Chucks open action Friday with the JV contest at 6 p.m. and the varsity game, including the Queen's Court ceremony at halftime, will follow.View more articles in: