Heart-breaker: Chucks fall by two at ECC

ST. MARYS — Friday morning's District-IX boys' basketball standings had Punxsy tied for first at the top of the heap, but they also showed five teams with just two losses. Friday evening's games were certain to stir things up, though, with all six teams playing league games.

The Chucks knew they could fall as low as a tie for fourth in the standings with just one loss, and in heart-breaking fashion, Punxsy did just that when a left-handed layup by Brandon Mancuso was blocked by Elk County's Brandon Schlimm to preserve a 47-45 win for the Crusaders.

"Daniel (Triponey) hit Brandon (Mancuso) coming down the left of the lane just like we drew it up, and Schlimm made a nice defensive play and blocked it at the buzzer," Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal said.

ECC's Clayton Housler was fouled with 2.7 seconds left and the game tied, and he hit both to give the Crusader's the lead for good.

One of Punxsy's goals all season has been to "protect its house," meaning the Chucks wanted to win all their home games. But Neal and his squad knew picking up a road win against Elk County is always difficult.

"We knew that Elk would be good at home, and in the end, that was the difference," he said.

The teams were tied after the first quarter, and the game stayed close throughout, but Neal said a few defensive lapses ended up hurting the Chucks in the end.

"We just made a few mistakes that ended up hurting us," he said. "Also, we were beat on the offensive boards, and it seemed like all the loose balls were going their way. We had a chance, though, and it was a gutsy effort on the road. I'm proud of these guys."

It was the third quarter that gave Punxsy the most difficulty, as the Crusaders held the Chucks to eight points and managed 13.

On the offensive end, Punxsy was led by senior guard Alex Fedigan, who had 12 points, all in the first half, to keep Punxsy close from the start.

Senior point guard Daniel Triponey and junior forward Garrett Zimmerman were also major contributors on the offensive end with nine points apiece.

Luke Janocha led the way for Punxsy on the boards with nine, and Zimmerman, Ian Miller and Triponey each picked up four off the glass.

Despite the tough loss on the road, Neal said his squad is looking forward to getting back in the gym in preparation for Tuesday's home game against St. Marys.

"We'll jump right back to work (this morning) and start working for St. Marys and DuBois next week," he said. "We'll just take it one day at a time and one game at a time."

In the junior varsity contest, Punxsy was handed its first loss of the season in another close game, 48-41.

Punxsy's Devin Nicholson was the game's top-scorer with 20 points, but the Chucks just weren't able to muster quite enough offense to keep with the sharp-shooting Crusaders, who were led by Vincent Jacob with 18 points.

Punxsy's Tyler Young had seven points to aid in the cause, and Will Curtis finished with six.

Michael Klingensmith had four points, and Clayton Dale and Matt Burkett each had two for Punxsy.