Seventh-grade squad picks up the split

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Over the past week, Punxsy's seventh-grade boys' basketball team earned a split in a pair of tough games against DuBois and Ridgway.

Last Friday, the Chucks picked up a come-from-behind 23-22 victory over the Beavers by outscoring DuBois 12-6 in the final quarter.

"Wow, what a battle and a great win," Punxsy head coach Rodney Thompson said. "These guys worked hard on defense the entire game. Our pressure defense is getting better and is causing a lot of problems for the opposition. The only thing we need to improve on is keeping them from getting easy baskets off the press. They probably had around six or eight easy points."

The two teams were involved in a close first-half battle with the Chucks winning the first quarter 6-4, but DuBois edging Punxsy in the second quarter, 6-5, to pull within one at halftime.

DuBois answered by shutting out the Chucks in the third quarter, though, and took a five-point lead into the final stanza.

But Punxsy more than doubled its score from the first three quarters in the fourth to earn a 23-22 victory.

"We were held scoreless in the third and just could not convert the easy baskets," Thompson said. "But we came back in the fourth and outscored them by six points for the win."

One thing that stood out to Thompson for his team was their intensity, which he credited, in part, to the faithful fans in attendance and the cheerleaders.

"Our intensity was just top-notch tonight," he said. "My guys wanted this win and worked hard to get it. The atmosphere at the middle school gym was electric with all of the Punxsy fans cheering on the home team. The team and I appreciate that awesome support from the parents and the fans. Big thanks to everyone for their support, especially the cheerleading squad for performing at every home game."

Thompson also liked the fact that his team was able to earn another win over a team that had a size advantage over the Chucks but also admitted its an area in which his squad needs some improvement.

"This is the second game in a row where we had to battle against guys much taller than us and did OK, but we still need to work on low post defense and making sure we have help at all times to take away the lob passes."

A final area he said his team could use some extra practice is from the free throw line.

"We were an atrocious 6-for-20 from the free throw line," he said. "We have to start making more from the charity stripe."

Jacob Weaver led the scoring for Punxsy in the win with six points. Sky Anderson put up four points, while Patrick Fedigan and Lucas Ambler each scored three.

Josh Godo, Ethan Riley and Brady Snyder each had two, and Nick Constant added a free throw.

In their most recent game, Wednesday against Ridgway, Punxsy struggled early and couldn't work out of the hole it found itself in after being outscored 14-4 in the first quarter.

"Our press wasn't working, so we went to full-court man-to-man, and it worked for a while," Thompson said. "But then we made some mistakes of not finding our man, and they moved the ball up the floor and scored some hoops."

After a pair of impressive defensive outings, Thompson said his team's defense just wasn't up to par Wednesday.

"Fundamentally, we made some mistakes of not catching the ball, making some bad passes and not handling the pressure Ridgway gave us in the first half," he said. "We played hard the whole game, but we're not going to score 40 points in a game, so our defense has to be better than anyone we play. Today, it was not."

Thompson said one bad game doesn't necessarily mean the Chucks are ready to throw in the towel, though.

"We'll go back to the drawing board of contain defense, deny defense and rebounding," he said.

Anderson lit up the scoreboard for Punxsy in the losing cause with nine points, and Jacob Horner followed with six of his own.

Constant and Ambler each added three points, while Patrick Fedigan, Jacob Weaver, Brady Snyder and Tanner Zimmerman pitched in with two points apiece.

Punxsy basketball has a big day against Elk County Catholic today, with the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade boys traveling to ECC for 4 p.m. contests, the boys' varsity team traveling, as well, and the girls' basketball team hosting the Lady Crusaders.