JH hoops teams end seasons on high notes

PUNXSUTAWNEY — While the Punxsy Chucks varsity basketball team prepares for its District IX championship game Saturday at Clarion University, the junior high basketball teams' seasons have come to a close.

The ninth-grade squad closed on a high note, winning two of its last three games, with the only loss being a close overtime loss to the Bradford Owls in the last game of the season.

After a rough start to the season, the squad rebounded to finish with a 7-16 overall record, and Punxsy head coach Brandon Krug said he was proud of the perseverance his players showed throughout the year, adding their record didn't necessarily reflect their performance.

"Even though our record wasn't that great, we were in every game we played this year," Krug said. "I give these guys all the credit in the world. They could have quit on me and given up, but they didn't. They fought hard all year, all the way to the last game. As a coach, I couldn't have asked for anything more from a team."

A busy final week that saw three games began Feb. 13 with a 53-37 victory over the Brockway Rovers in Brockway.

Punxsy's potent offense was led by point guard Ryan Sloniger, who put up 17 points.

Dakota Thomas joined Sloniger in double digits with 10 points.

Andy Fedigan and Logan Reed were also high scorers for the Chucks with eight apiece.

Two days later, the Chucks hosted their final home game of the season and handled Clearfield fairly easily for a 37-29 victory.

Dakota Byers led Punxsy's offense with nine points, and Brandon Blose followed closely with eight.

Fedigan was in the mix again with six points for the Chucks.

Unfortunately for Punxsy, riding a two-game winning streak into its final game at Bradford Feb. 17, the momentum ran out just short of a three-game run to finish the season in a 37-35 overtime loss to the Owls.

Sloniger again led the Chucks with 14 points, and Fedigan put up nine.

Blose was also a major contributor with six points.

Krug had nothing but good things to say concerning the character of his squad.

"This is a great group of guys, and with some work in the offseason, I know they will be ready to contribute to the JV and varsity teams next year," Krug said. "We lost a lot of close games this year. Hopefully, they can build and learn from the tough losses we had this year so that, in the future, they will be able to execute and put teams away at the end of games."

Krug also wanted to give thanks and credit to the parents of his hard-working squad for the time and energy they put into making the season a success.

"I just want to say thank you to the team and all of the parents," he said. "We had a full parents' section at almost every game supporting and cheering us on. I look forward to watching this team grow and develop in the future. I hope they learned some things this year that they can carry on with them throughout their careers."

Seventh-grade basketball: Punxsy 35, Bradford 23

The ninth-grade squad wasn't the only one that saw success at the end of its season, as the seventh- graders concluded their schedule with an impressive 35-23 victory over the Bradford Owls Feb. 17 on the road.

Despite trailing 7-6 after the first quarter, Punxsy outscored the Owls 14-4 in the second and never looked back.

Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson was pleased with the way his players applied all the things they had learned over the season to their finale.

"My guys played a really nice game," Thompson said. "They kept Bradford off balance with the press and were able to pull away in the second and third quarter. So much was learned this year, starting with fundamental defense, understanding that you have to play with intensity to win, because when you are flat you lose. Also, the importance of the team over the individual, breaking presses, crisper passes, letting the offense work by running it through and working together as a team."

Leading 20-11 at the half, Punxsy controlled the third quarter, and the fourth was a defensive struggle, with Bradford edging the Chucks 3-2. But the lead was more than enough to hold for the Chucks' win.

Lucas Ambler led Punxsy's scoring attack with 11 points, and Nick Constant chipped in with seven from the point guard position.

Ethan Riley scored three, and a plethora of Chucks — Brady Snyder, Josh Godo, Patrick Fedigan, Jacob Horner, Joel Triponey, Lucas Burkett and Devin Kelly — rounded out the tallies in Punxsy's column with two apiece.

Much like Krug, Thompson had many good things to say about his players after the season-ending game.

"It was a pleasure to work with each and every one of these awesome kids, and I am glad I had the opportunity to help them become better basketball players," Thompson said. "Hopefully, they became better people, too, because of the hard work, dedication and playing as a team."

Thompson gave his squad credit for hanging with his teaching after a rough start to the season, as well.

"Our season started with several losses, and as I told the guys, 'Sometimes, you have to lose to learn.' And they did just that," Thompson said. "They were able to turn the second half of the year around by accumulating seven wins while gaining confidence learning from their mistakes."

Thompson also had a laundry list of folks he wanted to thank for helping make the season a success.

"Thanks to all the parents for your commitment," he said. "It takes a lot of effort to make it to every practice and pick up and drop off every day. All the parents should be recognized for their efforts in raising such a fine group of kids. I want to also thank coach (Glenn) Good and all his advice throughout the year and the efforts, as well, of volunteer Darren Sherry and coaches (Dirk) Neal, (Darrin) Kriebel and Krug.

"Also, I want to thank the athletic office for all they do in organizing gyms and games so that we can practice and improve these guys through competition."