It's good to be home: Chucks win home opener

PUNXSUTAWNEY — After the Punxsy Chucks basketball team won its first game Saturday at the Marion Center Tip-Off Tournament, one of its goals was to carry the momentum from the win into its home opener, and Tuesday night, the Chucks did just that with a convincing 52-33 win over the Redbank Valley Bulldogs in Punxsutawney.

Punxsy's defense was stout, as it had been in its first two games, but the offense responded well to the pressure of Redbank Valley's defense with Brandon Mancuso sparking the offense with seven points early and Ian Miller turning in a solid outing with 16 points, most of which came in the key while fighting off Bulldog defenders.

"Ian really did a nice job, especially stepping off the bench like he did to score 16 points," Punxsy head coach Dirk Neal said after the game. "Especially when you get some guards in foul trouble early on, and you have some guys that come off the bench and step right in to fill those voids, that's always nice."

While Miller's production didn't begin until the second quarter, Mancuso filled the role of scorer to give the Chucks an early edge, as they outscored the Bulldogs 13-4 in the first quarter.

Mancuso followed up a steal by senior Luke Janocha and notched a jumper for Punxsy's first points, and after senior point guard Daniel Triponey added a basket of his own, Mancuso cashed in two free throws and added another basket off a steal of his own to give Punxsy an 8-2 lead three minutes in.

"It's nice to have that kind of performance, especially from a tenth-grader," Neal said. "After the first half of Friday's game against Marion Center, where he seemed a bit timid, he's just fitting right in like a brother to these guys. Even though he's only a sophomore, the way he plays you'd often think he's a senior. He plays with confidence, and that makes him seem older than he is out there."

After the quick start, Punxsy's defense was steady, holding Redbank Valley scoreless for six minutes between the first and second quarters, and Neal attributed a large part of his team's defensive consistency to communication.

"Guys were communicating really well, and that's something we work on in practice," he said. "The bottom line is you can never talk too much in basketball, and we really try to stress that."

Punxsy senior forward Alex Fedigan was a bit over-aggressive on the defensive end and found himself in foul trouble after the first five minutes, opening the door for Miller to enter the game, and after Clayton Dale knocked down a three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the quarter, Miller added a basket just before the quarter expired to push Punxsy's lead to 13-4.

Fedigan started the second quarter, but another quick foul brought Miller back into the game, and Punxsy gave Redbank Valley a strong dose of the big man.

Miller scored four minutes into the quarter after some nice ball movement by Punxsy's offense opened up the lane, and on the next drive down the court, Miller showed confidence en route to another basket.

He was fouled on the play, and finished with a free-throw to complete the three-point play.

Punxsy's Devin Nicholson, one of many bench players who saw significant time for the Chucks Tuesday, added a pair of free throws, and Triponey gave the Chucks two more before Redbank's Jake Dougherty beat the buzzer to set the score at 23-10 at halftime.

Dougherty came out firing, draining a three to start the third quarter, but two minutes in, Punxsy settled back in behind a nice feed-and-finish from Triponey to Janocha, a bucket by Garrett Zimmerman and a pair of strong takes for layups by Triponey to set the wheels back in motion for the offense.

"It was good to get Daniel Triponey back on track tonight," Neal said. "He had eight points, and a couple of hoops early in the third quarter were nice. We need to get him to a point where he relaxes and goes with the flow of the game. Last year, he had some options that aren't exactly there this year, and teams will try to take him out of the game, because they know the kind of player he is. So, it's nice to have the steady, balanced scoring attack we did tonight."

From that point forward, Miller dominated the Bulldogs' defense, scoring nine points in the paint while the Chucks defense held Redbank to two points, and Punxsy pulled away to lead 41-17 after three.
Redbank Valley outscored the Chucks 16-11 in the fourth quarter, as Punxsy took the opportunity to give some players deep in the bench some playing time — which led to the Chucks having 11 players on the scoresheet at the end of the game.

Players who scored for the Chucks in the fourth quarter included Dale on a free throw, Nicholson and Tim Pearce on a pair of three-pointers and Tanner Evans and Michael Rosenberger, who each added baskets.

"In a game like that, it's valuable to get some of your bench players experience," Neal said. "Sometimes, you're thrown right into the fire, but tonight we had the luxury where we could get them some minutes when they were more relaxed. Hopefully, that means they'll be more prepared for it in the future."

After Miller's 16 points, Punxsy's leading scorers were Triponey (8), Mancuso (7) and Nicholson (5).

Janocha and Jesse Venturini led a balanced attack on the boards with five rebounds apiece, and Zimmerman and Fedigan added four and three, respectively.

Mancuso also had three steals to lead the defensive effort.

After winning the regular-season opener, Punxsy turns its focus to its rival, the Brookville Radiers, who the Chucks will host Friday night.

Punxsy's JV squad also hosted the Bulldogs Tuesday night, and Punxsy's stifling full-court press proved to be too much for Redbank Valley, as the Chucks cruised to a 48-21 victory.

The Chucks' offense was especially potent in the first quarter as Punxsy outscored Redbank 17-4, but it was the defense that shone, limiting the Bulldogs to very few scoring opportunities.

Punxsy also dominated the offensive glass and finished on many second-chance points.

Matt Burkett was Punxsy's leading scorer in the first quarter, as he racked up the first six points for his team. Nicholson added five points, a steal and a block in the quarter, as he played steadily on both ends.

The Chucks led 31-4 at halftime after holding Redbank Valley scoreless for the entire second quarter, and although the Bulldogs were able to even Punxsy's score in the second half, 17-17, the deficit was far too great to overcome.

Nicholson led the JV scoring attack with 12 points, and Burkett followed closely with 11. Will Curtis and Evans each chipped in with eight points.

Cory Geer scored six first-half points, and Dale wrapped up the Chucks' scoring with three.

The JVs will also host Brookville Friday night with a 6 p.m. tip-off and the varsity game to follow at 7:30 p.m.