Chucks use full team effort, sneak past Cats

HOMER CITY — The Punxsy Chucks basketball team went on the road to take on the Bobcats of Homer Center Monday night in an out-of-league contest that proved to be a good tune-up game heading into its final two league games Wednesday and Friday. But the Chucks came away with a 68-64 victory over Homer Center in what Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal called "a full team effort."

Punxsy senior guard Alex Fedigan was sidelined with an injury, forcing fellow-senior Ian Miller into the starting lineup, and Miller proved to be one of four Chucks scorers in double digits.

Daniel Triponey led the scoring for Punxsy with 16, and sophomore Brandon Mancuso finished just one point behind him with 15 of his own.

Miller notched 14 points to follow the team's two best men, and junior Garrett Zimmerman added 11 for the Chucks.

"We just gutted out a big win against a very solid single-A team," Neal said. "It was close the whole way. They were a difficult team, and it was a difficult place to play. We gave up 64 points, but we were hungry for the big win, and the kids played really well."

Neal said in a game similar to Monday's when a starter is out, a team has to rely on its bench. And he said his bench did exactly what he expected it to do: Played up to the standard they've known all year.

Neal especially noted the play of Tyler Young, who usually plays on the junior varsity squad but had the opportunity to step in and see some playing time in a close, down-to-the-wire game. Young even hit a clutch three in the fourth quarter, Punxsy's only three in the final stanza, to help maintain a bit of distance from the Bobcats.

"We had a lot of bench contributions tonight," Neal said. "Tyler Young played very well for us off the bench. He looked to shoot and was really comfortable out there."

Neal also noted that seniors Tim Pearce and Jesse Venturini and junior Devin Nicholson played well off the bench when they were needed.

Punxsy outscored the Bobcats 12-10 in the first quarter and 18-12 in the second to take a comfortable eight-point lead into halftime. But the game really opened up in the second half, with both teams putting up 20-plus in the third quarter and Homer Center outscoring the Chucks by three points in the final frame.

Punxsy did what it had to do down the stretch, though, and maintained its lead en route to the victory.

One area the Chucks shined in the second half was free throw shooting, as they hit 16-of-20 in the final two quarters. Neal said his team did a good job getting to the line all night, as they shot 34 free throws on the evening, but was especially pleased with the clutch shooting.

While the game didn't do anything for Punxsy in the District IX standings, Neal said the game was "a huge confidence booster" for his team entering the home stretch before the D-IX playoffs, where Punxsy will be the No. 1 seed.

Luke Janocha led Punxsy on the boards with 11 rebounds, and Miller and Zimmerman each nabbed five off the glass.

Punxsy still has two games remaining this week, starting with a home contest against Clearfield Wednesday.

"We only play Clearfield once a year, but we may meet them in the playoffs," Neal said. "We're looking forward to closing out our home campaign against them. Hopefully, we'll play well and pick up a big win at home to give us some momentum for Friday night."

Friday night, the Chucks will close their season on the road at Bradford, the other team the Chucks may see in the D-IX AAA playoffs this year.

In the JV game, Punxsy put up 41 points despite playing six-minute quarters, and the Chucks cruised to a 41-21 victory over the Bobcats.

Young shined brightest for the Chucks on the offensive end with 12 points, and Cory Geer finished in double digits with 10, as well.

Michael Klingensmith and Devin Nicholson each scored eight for the Chucks, and Will Curtis wrapped up the scoring with three points.