DUBOIS — Entering Tuesday night's contest with Punxsy, DuBois Central Catholic's record was 1-7, but Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal and his squad knew that meant the Cardinals would be gunning for a win to kick off the 2012 calendar year's schedule. The Chucks fought hard to earn a 25-22 halftime lead and outscored DCC 14-6 in the third quarter to open the game up and went on to grab a 50-38 win.
"Even before the game, it was a big concern for us, because any time you play a team, you throw the records out the window," Neal said. "But you look at a team that's 1-7 going into the game and looking to find their offensive flow early, because teams have jumped out to big leads against them this year. If you give a scrappy team like that an inch, they'll take a mile. We did a good job playing with them in the first half, and that 14-6 third quarter really made a difference for us."
Punxsy's first-half lead came from a balanced attack led by sophomore guard Brandon Mancuso.
Mancuso has made a name for himself lately by jumping out to fast starts from behind the three-point arc, and Tuesday night was no different, as he hit three threes in the first half to lead the Chucks' scoring at the break with nine.
Punxsy senior point guard Daniel Triponey took over in the second half, though, scoring 12 of his 18 points after the half to set the pace and keep distance between his team and the Cardinals.
"Daniel did a great job at the point distributing and taking the ball to the basket," Neal said. "Some of those moves he had, they just didn't have an answer for. His hang time in the air was great, and he could make two or three moves and still finish. That really makes a difference."
The Chucks' zone pressure defense stepped up in the second half, as well, and held the Cardinals to just 16 second-half points.
"We talked about things at halftime like not pressing," Neal said. "Tonight, we really didn't do too bad in that area, but it was just a reminder to the guys to take what was given to them. And in the second half, they did just that."
The Chucks third quarter was jump-started by Ian Miller converting on a quick basket to push the Chucks' lead to 27-22.
"Ian started for Alex (Fedigan) who was sick, and he gave us some really good minutes," Neal said. "Hopefully, anyone who's going to get sick can get that out of their system over this next week-long break."
Big men Garrett Zimmer- man and Luke Janocha added their own baskets before Triponey capped a 12-2 rally to begin the third quarter with a pair of baskets to give Punxsy a 37-24 lead.
Punxsy's big men put up 19 points combined between Miller, Janocha, Zimmerman and Cory Geer, but it was their work on the glass that impressed Neal most Tuesday night. Janocha led the team with 10 rebounds, three of which were on the offensive end and provided extra scoring opportunities for the Chucks.
Zimmerman and Mancuso had six boards each, and Triponey nabbed four.
"Luke had 10 rebounds overall, but so many other times, he kept it alive and tipped it out to the other guys," Neal said. "Brandon Mancuso and a few other guys grabbed offensive rebounds that he tipped out and kept alive. Luke and Garrett are just playing so well right now, and Jesse Venturini really gave us some good minutes off the bench tonight."
DCC had a couple hot-handed shooting guards of its own, led by Michael Krajewski, who hit three shots from behind the arc to lead his squad with nine points, but Punxsy was able to pressure the guards and prevent continued damage once they started to heat up.
Another area in which Neal saw improvement from his players Tuesday night was in their ability to maintain their composure despite being fouled at the end of the game, even when some of the fouls were going uncalled as the referees allowed them to play more physically on both ends of the court.
Neal said his team kept its cool and showed no signs of frustration, finishing the game without allowing DCC's press to cut into the lead.
With the victory on DCC's stomping grounds, the Chucks improved to 6-2 this season and 2-1 on the road.
Overall, Neal is very pleased with his team's performance so far, and he sees room for them to continue improving with hard work.
"These kids are just great," he said. "They just want to get out there and play every game. Their camaraderie is good, and they're just playing well together. The intensity level is definitely back, too. We're getting after people. We held them to 38 tonight, and they are a good shooting team."
Neal also pointed out the play of senior guard Tim Pearce relieving Triponey at point guard, especially early in the fourth quarter after the starters played a majority of the third quarter and needed a breather.
"Timmy Pearce and Cory Geer played well off the bench tonight, too," Neal said. "Whenever our guards were being worn down a bit, Tim came off the bench and held his own. He didn't score, but he did his job and bought some time for us. Overall, it was just another very nice team win."
After a bit of an extended break during the holiday, Punxsy is again idle until next Tuesday when the Chucks will host a tough opponent in Elk County Catholic.
Neal said the Chucks will use the time off to continue to improve at practice in preparation for the Crusaders.
In the junior varsity contest, the Chucks jumped out to an 11-6 first quarter lead, but trailed 16-15 at halftime before edging out DCC in the second half to earn a 31-27 victory.
Punxsy junior Devin Nicholson continued to be a model of consistency with 10 points for the squad, and Geer kept up his consistent scoring as well with eight.
Point guard Clayton Dale had five points, Matt Burkett added four, and Michael Klingensmith and Tyler Young rounded out the scoring with two apiece.
The JVs will tip off at 6 p.m. next Tuesday against ECC with the varsity game to follow.