PUNXSUTAWNEY — It may have taken most of the first quarter to come to life, but by midway through the second half, the Chucks boys' basketball team was on cruise control Thursday night, and after a Devin Nicholson basket five minutes into the game to give Punxsy the 6-5 lead, the Chucks would never trail again, as they flew past visiting Harmony, 54-31, in Punxsutawney.
The Chucks received an early boost off their bench from junior Michael Klingensmith, who finished with a season-best 10 points to go with four assists, six rebounds and a steal.
“Klingensmith gave us an early spark. Our bench players have been consistent for us in the early going (this season),” noted Chucks head coach Dirk Neal. “We came out too anxious at times early. Klingensmith went right into the flow of the game and changed the tempo in our favor.”
Punxsy turned the ball over on its first two possessions and followed with a pair of missed triples. But Brandon Mancuso was able to get the home team on the board 2:18 into the contest with a driving layup.
The Owls held their own in the early going with the Chucks. Harmony enjoyed an early 5-2 advantage after a Logan Sral layup with 4:26 left in the opening period.
The Chucks rattled off the next seven points in the following two minutes to pull ahead, 12-5, and never give up the lead for the remaining 26 minutes. Nicholson dished to Garrett Zimmerman for an inside bucket before he grabbed his own rebound on the next trip and laid the ball back in.
Nicholson continued his strong early game with another swipe of a Harmony ball and passed to Tyler Young for what would be a layup and foul shot to make it 9-5.
Klingensmith capped the spurt with a triple from the left wing for the 12-5 Punxsy lead — a lead that would be no less than five points for the rest of the night.
“All of us (the team) took care of the ball much better after the early going,” added Neal.
Mancuso posted a game-best 16 points to go with four assists, and Young dropped four buckets for nine tallies of his own.
Cory Geer had a well-balanced game, accounting for eight points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals.
Even though he scored only four points, Nicholson pulled down five offensive boards and handed out three assists in addition to stealing three passes.
Will Curtis grabbed six caroms and scored four points, while Zimmerman contributed three points, and John Matthews added three assists.
Leading 15-10 with five minutes left in the first half, the Chucks put the game away early. Punxsy netted the next 13 points to put plenty of separation between itself and Harmony.
Mancuso hit a top-of-the-key jumper to start the run with baskets from Klingensmith and Nicholson next.
Mancuso added a long-range bucket before Klingensmith assisted on a Geer layup. Klingensmith stole the ensuing Harmony possession and took it the length of the floor to make a 28-10 contest.
The Owls put in two hoops in the final two minutes for a 30-14 intermission score.
Mancuso powered the Chucks out of the locker room with nine third-period points. Punxsy claimed the quarter 16-7 for a 46-21 margin at the end of 24 minutes.
With the reserves into the game, Harmony, who is coached by Punxsy alum Doug Martz, wrapped up the game by winning the final frame, 10-8, for a 54-31 final.
The Owls were led by Evan Novella’s 11 points, while Nathan Young chipped in seven points.
The victory pushed the Chucks' record to a solid 5-1 season mark going into the Carl Truance Holiday Tournament at home next Thursday and Friday.
“It is huge (to be at 5-1 now),” noted Neal. “The kids are working hard. They are deserving of the record they have. We are climbing the ladder now, but we need to keep moving forward, and that comes from continuing to work hard in practice.”
In the junior varsity affair, Punxsy went to 5-0 on the year. The Chucks claimed a 56-28 win over the junior Owls.
After a tight 13-10 first-quarter lead, Punxsy shutout Harmony by a 19-0 score in the second stanza. The quarter was paced by Ryan Sloniger’s nine points and eight points from Curtis, giving the Chucks a 32-10 commanding lead.
Curtis led the JV squad with 12 points, with Ruben Taylor hitting three triples for nine points. Jared Burkett netted eight points.
Matthews and Brandon Blose each scored five points. Logan Reed and Clayton Dale added three points apiece, with Matt Burkett having a basket to round out the scoring.
Punxsy will now be off until next Thursday, Dec. 27, when it will return to action in a 7:45 p.m. contest against Moniteau at the Holiday Tournament. Marion Center faces Clarion in a 1:15 p.m. tipoff earlier in the day.