Raiders edge Chucks after back-and-forth classic

PUNXSUTAWNEY — It has long been said that the records can be thrown out when it comes to rivalry games, and the Route 36 Rivalry between the Punxsutawney Chucks and Brookville Raiders' boys' basketball teams is no different.

In a game that featured 10 lead changes and a frenzied final minute, the Raiders (9-1, 3-1 District IX League) completed a season sweep of the Chucks (3-5, 0-2) with a 48-45 victory.

Four three-pointers during the final 43 seconds were unable to reach the bottom of the net for Punxsy, as Alex Fedigan's off-balance leaner with three seconds left was no good, leading to Brookville's emotional victory.

"They played their hearts out with a fantastic effort," Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal said about his team. "Those were good looks, other than the last one. Fedigan had to shoot a little bit over a leaner."

After a Corban Cressley three-pointer put Punxsy ahead 33-32 with 6:29 left, Punxsy never saw the lead again, as Brookville's 10-2 run made it a 42-35 contest in the Raiders' favor.

The Chucks rushed back into the game, as two Fedigan free throws with 61 seconds remaining were followed by Logan Weaver making his first free throw with 43 seconds left and missing the second, only for a Punxsy offensive rebound to keep the possession alive.

What followed was a three-pointer by Weaver and two by Daniel Triponey. Each missed shot was followed by a Punxsy rebound, with the third leading to a Punxsy turnover. But as a scramble near mid-court ensued, the Chucks caused a jump-ball situation with 11 seconds left and had the arrow pointing in their favor.

Punxsy couldn't ever put up a good shot during its final possession until Fedigan's last-ditch effort. Brookville head coach Bud Baughman told his players to foul since his team was up by three points, but the referees silenced their whistles during the final 11 seconds.

"I'm glad they're off our schedule this year, because any time these two teams play, it's never easy," Baughman said of Punxsy. "It's a battle right to the end, and tonight was the most exciting game I've been in this year, for sure."

Brookville's 6-foot-6 center Zane Hackett scored a game-high 20 points, including 14 during the first half. The Raiders were ahead 22-21 at halftime, but didn't hit a three-pointer — one of the keys that led to Brookville's 50-42 win over Punxsy earlier in the season — until late in the third quarter.

"We had a mismatch in height on the inside. We ran a couple set plays for him, and we were fortunate to have those go," Baughman said of Hackett's dominance during the first half. "I think we were trying to concentrate on a couple things with the perceived mismatch we had, and I honestly think it got us out of our flow a little bit."

As Brookville started to take more outside shots, its lead grew more and more. After Kyle Baughman missed a pair of free throws with six seconds left in the third quarter, a Brookville offensive rebound led to Dan Ion nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer to push the Raiders ahead 29-27 entering the final frame.

Punxsy and Brookville exchanged baskets to start the fourth quarter before Baughman's only trey of the game put the Raiders ahead 42-35 with 4:21 left.

"They hit some big shots when they needed to," Neal said.

Punxsy's Daniel Triponey scored a team-high 14 points. He was followed by balanced scoring from the rest of the Chucks, with Weaver and Jordan Mesoraco scoring nine points and Fedigan totaling eight. Weaver added nine rebounds, and Mesoraco nailed three three-pointers.

Jared Heschke followed Hackett with nine points, and both Tashan Mark and Ion had six points.

The loss was Punxsy's second in three games of three points or fewer. But Neal knows that if the team keeps working at it, a win snapping the squad's three-game losing streak is on the horizon.

"We can sit here and talk until we're blue in the face, but we have to keep playing hard, and hopefully, the ball will bounce our way one time," Neal said. "We'll (the coaches) never give up, and (the players) won't either. They're just too hungry."

The Raiders, meanwhile, bounced back from their first loss this season with an impressive road victory.

"I thought our kids hung tough. I think this win will go a long way toward the rest of the year," Baughman said. "It was one of those games that the boys could have lost very easily."