ALTOONA — The Punxsy seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams have worked hard to earn their Christmas break, which will run until Jan. 4, 2012. But before the break came a pair of tough games against Brookville and Altoona-White.
In the eighth-grade game at Altoona Wednesday, Punxsy hung with Altoona in the first half to trail by just five points at halftime, but Al- toona broke the game open against the Chucks to outscore them 25-12 in the second half and earn a 43-25 win.
Despite the loss, Punxsy head coach Glenn Good knew his team was facing a tough foe and liked what he saw.
"We played better defensively in this game," he said. "Altoona is a quick team. We did have issues with their guards penetrating, but we did a better job with where we were supposed to be. Now, we have the break to get things worked out."
Punxsy's leading scorer was John Matthews with nine points.
Jared Manners and Dylan Huey also contributed to the Chucks' numbers with four points each.
In Wednesday's game, Good also saw some areas of improvement his squad can work on over the holiday break.
"Offensively, we had some good looks, but we didn't convert enough," he said. "And, we were only 5-of-15 from the foul line. We need to convert on a few more of our foul shots."
The eighth-graders were much more successful last Friday in a 45-19 victory over Brookville in Punxsutawney.
Punxsy outscored the Raiders 11-6 in the first quarter then held them to one point in the second quarter to develop a 23-7 halftime lead.
Punxsy comfortably won the second half, 22-12, to cruise to a 45-19 victory.
"This game was closer than the score indicated," Good said. "Brookville is a good team, and we gave them too many looks at the basket. Fortunately for us, they were not able to convert these opportunities."
Good was pleased with his offense's performance, but also noted his team needs to continue to work at the other end of the court to end up where it would ideally like to be.
"We need to continue to play better defense positionally than what we have been doing," he said. "But offensively, we had many chances and took advantage of most of them. We rebounded well and earned second chances."
Matthews was again Punxsy's leading scorer with 15 points, and Brandon Douthit chipped in with eight for the Chucks.
The win improved Punx-sy's record to 3-1 heading into the break.
The Chucks' next game will be Jan. 4 at DuBois Central Catholic.
In Wednesday afternoon's seventh-grade game against Altoona-White, the Chucks fell behind 11-5 in the first quarter and trailed by 12 at halftime. Altoona closed the game with a 14-5 fourth quarter to close out a 42-16 win.
With the loss, the Chucks fall to 0-4 on the year, but their record is deceiving, with two of those losses being by less than five points.
"It's not how we wanted to start the year with four losses, but now it is going to be a challenge to see if we an regroup and come back after Christmas and play better," Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson said.
With a young team that is in its first official year of organized junior high basketball, Thompson is beginning to see the areas in which his team most needs improvement.
"Our main areas of improvement need to be in getting back on defense after a missed shot to eliminate the opposition from scoring easy shots off the break; to learn aggressive man-to-man defensive principles of 60-40, help side, deny, one-on-one containment, communication and low/high post positioning," he said. "Lastly, we need to improve on powering up to the basket to score.
On the offensive end, it was another balanced performance by the deep squad, with Patrick Fedigan and Brady Snyder leading the way with three points apiece.
Lucas Ambler, Sky Anderson, Nick Constant and Caleb Smith each had a pair of points for the Chucks, and Jacob Weaver and Chadler Emhoff each hit a foul shot to round up the scoring.
On player in particular stood out to Thompson on the other end of the court.
"Josh Godo had the best defensive game of the night in rebounding and playing help side," he said. "He was definitely my defensive player of the game."
Despite a tough start in the win column, Thompson isn't ready to throw in the towel on his young squad, yet.
"These guys can turn this thing around," he said.
Like the eighth-grade, the seventh-grade's next game will be Jan. 4, 2012 at DCC.