PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsy boys' basketball team found a way to finish Monday night.
Behind a defense that wouldn't quit and an offense that was able to penetrate Clearfield's zone defense late in the game, the Chucks (7-9) won their third-straight contest by beating the Bisons, 49-32.
Two former District IX League foes played as if they were still league rivals, as high intensity play ensued. Clearfield (4-12) may compete against mostly District VI opponents now, but the two squads played with an enthusiasm of a playoff game.
During a matchup where Punxsy never trailed by more than one point, the Chucks were able to surmount their late-game struggles with a 19-4 fourth quarter. During the final session, Punxsy turned a slim 30-28 advantage into a blowout victory.
Led by junior Logan Weaver, the Chucks surged toward a 15-7 advantage, as the guard nailed four three-pointers during the first 5 1/2-minutes of the game. Weaver finished with a game-high 20 points, hitting 5-of-9 three-pointers.
Weaver and Punxsy's offense cooled down during the second quarter, as they tallied just six points. The Chucks were ahead 23-21 at the break.
What was working for Clearfield during the first half disappeared in the second half, as Punxsy's defense tightened. The Bisons' Robbie Myers scored 11 of his team-high 15 points during the first half in the paint, and Jake Mellgard hit a pair of three-pointers in the first half, but he went scoreless during the second half.
"When you play that blitz defense that we play, you're packing things in a little bit," Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal said. "We kind of took him out of the game and made them live and die by the three-pointer" during the second half.
As Clearfield's offense slowed during the second half – it scored just 11 points during the final 16 minutes — Punxsy began to penetrate the Bisons' zone defense.
Punxsy jumped ahead by making 6-of-9 first half three-pointers, but in the second half, it attempted just a pair of long balls.
Instead of relying on perimeter shooting, it found openings in Clearfield's zone after moving the ball with proficiency.
"We learned from the past few games that we were struggling that you can't live and die by the three," Neal said. "We started attacking Clearfield's zone out of the high post — looking low and looking opposite — and got much higher percentage shots in the second half."
While Weaver cooled off from the field during the final three quarters, he continued to work hard on the glass, pulling down a team-best nine rebounds. Daniel Triponey followed with 16 points and six assists, and Alex Fedigan had six points and four rebounds.
Darren Pifer was all over the floor defensively, and Jordan Mesoraco came off the bench with six points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
The win was Punxsy's second-straight over a Class AAAA or AAA opponent. The Chucks' first five victories were over Single-A foes.
What comes next is another Class A opponent, but it's also one of the best in the district — Elk County Catholic. After falling to ECC, 52-33, Jan. 11 on the road, Punxsy will put its winning streak on the line against the Crusaders Friday night.
"What a perfect time (to having a winning streak) with Elk coming up Friday. We have some momentum rolling in our favor, and we're really playing well as a team," Neal said. "We just have to continue to develop that and dwell on it. To beat Elk, that's what it takes — something like this effort tonight, with a total team effort. A couple guys won't beat Elk."