MARION CENTER — Mounting a furious comeback, Punxsy erased a 15-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter to tie but saw A-C Valley hit four of four free throws in the final 50 seconds to pull out a 46-44 win in the Marion Center Tip-Off Championship game.
“We dug ourselves too big of a hole,” noted Chucks head coach Dirk Neal. “We played hard-nosed defense to get out of it — we trapped, pressed and forced the issue and tried to keep the ball out of (Ryan) Bartley’s hands who is a package player.”
Trailing 36-23 after three quarters, Bartley, who led all scorers with 16 points, made a pair of free throws for a 38-23 A-C Valley lead with 7:42 in the game.
The Punxsy deficit remained 15 points, 42-27, two minutes later.
The Chucks’ comeback started on the offensive glass. Garrett Zimmerman grabbed a miss and dished it for a Tyler Young layup to begin a 15-0 run over the next 3:39.
Young followed with a triple. Michael Klingensmith and Will Curtis put in back-to-back buckets to cut it to 42-36. The surge continued when Brandon Mancuso laid in an inbounds pass and completed the comeback with a top of the key three-pointer to tie the game, 42-42, with 1:39 left.
Brody Irwin put the Falcons back on top, 44-42, with two free shots after a Punxsy reach in foul with 50.2 seconds.
On the second attempt to tie on the possession, the Chucks were called for a moving screen with 18.9 seconds on the clock. A-C Valley added two free throws with 8.7 seconds, before Zimmerman put in a 12-foot shot with just over a second, but that was not enough for a 46-44 final.
“We didn’t play like last night,” added Neal. “We have young players and we made some bad turnovers. We just didn’t finish things off. We had early missed potentials and never got in a rhythm early on until we pressured at the end where the offense fed off it.”
Young led the Chucks with 13 points, three treys, five rebounds and three assists. Mancuso produced 11 points and three assists.
Zimmerman chipped in seven points and Kingensmith six. Corey Geer added three points and five rebounds, while both Devin Nicholson and Curtis had baskets.
Punxsy made only three of 11 free throws while A-C Valley connected on 15 of 16 of its tries. In what appeared to be a first quarter slugfest, Mancuso knocked down a three-pointer, and Geer banked in a layup for Punxsy's 5-2 lead after five minutes.
Brody Irwin stole a ball and laid the ball in for a 6-5 lead the Falcons would never give up the rest of the game. A-C Valley built a 25-11 halftime lead and had only a single point knocked off the margin, 36-23, after three frames.
“We have to work on our confidence and try to bounce back and be ready for Redbank Valley on Tuesday night,” finished Neal.
The Chucks eased their way to a 52-24 junior varsity win preceding the championship affair. Punxsy won the opening two quarters, 13-7 and 14-6, for a 29-11 halftime lead. The JV Chucks added a dominate 16-2 third quarter before the 52-24 final score over the Falcons.
With 10 players scoring, Curtis led the effort with 10 points.
Klingensmith added nine points of his own and Rueben Taylor eight. Matt Burkett chipped in seven points to round out the leaders.
Punxsy will tip-off its Tuesday night pair of games at 6 p.m. against Redbank Valley in New Bethlehem.
Punxsy 57, Marion Center 45 – Friday night
In a game that started at approximately 9:45 p.m. Friday night, Punxsy started its season with a solid 57-45 victory over host Marion Center.
“We played pretty well. We were well prepared against a good Marion Center team,” explained Chucks coach Dirk Neal.
Punxsy pulled ahead 10-9 after a quarter and held a 25-20 halftime advantage.
The Stingers and Chucks played even in the third quarter, 11-11, to make it 36-31 going into the final eight minutes.
Punxsy finished the season opener strong by taking the final quarter, 21-14, for the 57-45 final.
“We knew what we were up against,” added Neal. “We were unselfish with our passes and were able to find easy baskets and finished plays.”
Mancuso paced the Chucks with 18 points as one of four double digit scorers.
Zimmerman added 11 points and eight rebounds on the inside.
Young netted 10 points and grabbed five boards, while Nicholson chipped in 10 points.