Defensive intensity powers Chucks to first win
NEW BETHLEHEM — For the first time since Jan. 6, the Punxsy boys' basketball team exited the court with a victory Tuesday night.
Thanks to a defense that forced turnovers and allowed just two third-quarter points, the Chucks (1-1) ended their 15-game losing streak with a huge 62-34 victory over Redbank Valley in New Bethlehem.
Early in the contest, when Punxsy was ahead just 14-12 after the first quarter, the Bulldogs were getting to all of the loose ball first.
"Early on in the game, it was a tight ball game. Our defensive intensity was certainly there. We were forcing turnovers, but just couldn't take advantage of it," Punxsy first-year head coach Dirk Neal said. "Every loose ball went their way. Every way the ball bounced, it bounced right into their hands."
Things changed as the second quarter arrived, with Punxsy outscoring Redbank 22-12 to take a 36-24 lead into the break. And then, the Chucks were able to put the nail into the coffin with a dominant 12-2 third quarter.
"It was almost like the guys were taking a sigh of relief out there," Neal said. "Once we started clicking, we were on the run."
Commanding the game offensively was junior point guard Daniel Triponey, who scored a career-high 23 points. After playing off the bench on the varsity squad for the first time last season, Triponey has shown promise as a starter so far this year.
"Daniel needed that," Neal said. "We threw him into the fire. When you turn to one of those younger guys and ask him to handle the ball 90 percent of the game, you're asking a lot. His confidence really improved."
Triponey nailed eight field goals, including three beyond the arc. He was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line — Punxsy was 15-for-19 as a team — and scored nine points in the second quarter alone.
Following Triponey was junior Logan Weaver, who added 14 points, including two threes and 4-for-6 on his foul shots.
Punxsy received balanced scoring, as Alex Fedigan scored nine points, Corban Cressley had eight points, and Luke Janocha managed four.
"It was one of those games that was a nice total team effort," Neal said. "We were balanced and very unselfish and got a lot of good looks."
Janocha, a junior, started for the second time this season. Last Friday, he filled in for senior Jordan Mesoraco, who returned to the starting lineup Tuesday.
Starting senior Darren Pifer, who suffered a concussion during last Friday, did not play.
Punxsy forced 23 turnovers and totaled 11 steals as a team. Weaver had eight rebounds, Janocha had six rebounds (four offensive), and Cressley added three assists.
Leading Redbank in scoring were Tyler Ruby and Brandon Bain, who each totaled 13 points.
The Chucks will now have two days to prepare for District IX League rival Brookville, which improved to 3-0 Tuesday night.
Punxsy will attempt to snap its 14-game league losing streak during that contest.
"We know we have our work cut out for us," Neal said. "I just hope we have two more good practices and roll right into a big game against a tough opponent in Brookville."