PUNXSUTAWNEY — Despite outscoring Ridgway 19-10 in the second half, Punxsy's ninth-grade basketball team was unable to overcome a 15-2 Elkers' halftime lead Thursday afternoon in Punxsutawney, and the Chucks fell, 25-21.
"Being down 13 at halftime, we came out, made some adjustments, worked their zone and almost came back for the win," Punxsy head coach Brandon Krug said after the game. "The kids played hard, but that first half was the difference. If we play harder in the first half, we win that game."
While Punxsy's defense played especially well in the second half, the offense struggled in the first. The problem wasn't finding open shots, as there were plenty of looks, it was getting the ball to fall through the net.
"It took us a while to figure out their 1-3-1 zone, but once we did, we broke it," Krug said. "I kept telling them to be patient and work the zone, but in the first half, we were getting good shots. They just weren't going. It's hard for them to stay patient when you're passing around, especially when you're down by 10. But we did that in the second half."
The Chucks' offense started clicking in the third quarter, and Andy Fedigan led the scoring for the Chucks with four in the quarter and five for the game.
Dakota Thomas also scored five for Punxsy, including a deep three.
Adam Ferko put up four points in the paint for Punxsy. Ryan Sloniger hit a three in the waning seconds of the game, and Brandon Blose and Ruben Taylor each scored a pair for the Chucks.
Jeremy Breier of Ridgway — a big man with a shooter's touch — was the game's high scorer with nine, and Nate Steis followed him with six for the Elkers.
In action earlier this week, the Chucks picked up an impressive 47-26 victory over the Dutchmen of St. Marys by outscoring them 20-0 in the final quarter of play.
"Ahead by just one going into the fourth quarter, we talked about buckling down for one quarter and really playing hard on defense," Krug said. "That was by far the best game of basketball we've played all year. To shut a team out in the fourth quarter takes a full-team effort. I was proud that our guys put it together and finished a team off."
Sloniger led the scoring for Punxsy with 17 points in his team's winning cause.
Thomas had 10 points, and Fedigan put up six.
Dakota Byers managed five points, and Logan Reed wrapped up the scoring with a pair of baskets.
Punxsy's next game is today against DuBois, and Krug said he promises his team will be up for the matchup against their rival.
"These guys have come a long way since the beginning of the year," he said. "Now, we have DuBois. They beat us by eight last time, and they're definitely our rival. We'll be ready to go for 32 minutes. I'll make sure of that."
Seventh-grade boys' basketball: Punxsy 36, St. Marys 24
Tuesday afternoon, the seventh-grade boys' basketball team hosted the Dutchmen of St. Marys and after jumping out to an 11-5 first-quarter lead, the Chucks went on to a 36-24 win.
"We ran the offense better tonight and were able to get some good looks at the basket," Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson said after the game. "We converted some steals off the press into points and played an overall better defensive game."
Punxsy's defense held firm the entire game, allowing 10 points in the third quarter, but holding St. Marys to five, three and six in the other three, and Thompson gave credit to one player in particular for his defensive play.
"Everyone did a better job on defense," Thompson said. "Josh Godo is my most consistent defensive player game in and game out. You can count on him for help side defense every time, the kind of stuff you don't see in the scorebook at the end of the game."
Lucas Ambler led the scoring for the Chucks with 10 points, and Joel Triponey followed with six of his own.
"Ambler and Triponey did well offensively," Thompson said. "They both can get hot in practice shooting the ball, so it was nice to see them do it in a game."
Jacob Weaver scored four points for Punxsy, and Jacob Horner and Nick Constant each added three.
Lucas Burkett, Godo, Ethan Riley, Blake Bizousky and Sam Gigliotti rounded up the scoring for the Chucks with two apiece.
Seventh-grade boys' basketball: Elk County 39, Punxsy 13
The Chucks seventh-graders ran into a powerhouse in Elk County last Friday, and ECC's stifling defense shut the Punxsy offense down, holding it to 13 points on the day en route to a 39-13 win.
Despite the loss, Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson had high praises for his team's performance.
"The score does not show it, but these guys worked very hard on defense against a team that is very refined, a team that has not lost a game all season," he said. "Our defense looked good in the first half, but ECC ran their fast break in the second half to pull way ahead."
The Chucks were outscored 14-1 in the first quarter, and Elk never looked back after that.
"We need to run the offense better against better teams," Thompson said. "We let good teams break our offense down and just do not get enough good looks at the basket. Turning the offense over gives you looks if you let it run, because eventually, you create an opening in the defense."
Punxsy's leading scorer was Caleb Smith, who tallied four points.Constant and Triponey followed with three apiece. Horner scored two, and Kevin Hutton added a free throw.