GROVE CITY — The 2012-13 season has been both difficult and different for the Thiel College men’s basketball team.
During the past 2 seasons Thiel contested Bethany College for the Presidents’ Athletic Conference crown, only to fall short.
The Tomcats commenced the current campaign with 7 consecutive conquests. However a 6-game losing skid ensued, which coincided with the revelation that former student-athlete Aundra Jones unexpectedly died.
But it would appear the Tomcats have put that rough patch in the rear-view mirror. Thiel tallied its 2nd straight triumph Saturday afternoon, 65-48 at Grove City.
In the opener of the matinee twin bill at GCC Arena, the host Lady Wolverines won 53-43 over their Tomcat counterparts.
The uneven season thus far is not a coincidence, 7th-year Thiel taskmaster Tim Loomis allowed.
“I think we’re starting to get back. I think the death of Aundra Jones and all the injuries, it was kind’ve overwhelming. But it was no excuse, absolutely no excuse,” Loomis emphasized.
“But kids are kids,” he added, “everybody’s human, myself included, and (Jones’ death) took a lot out of us. His mother and I communicated the whole time,” Loomis related. “We went to Bethany for a big league game (Dec. 8), and we weren’t very good there, and we weren’t very good on (Dec. 10) at Allegheny.
“The ones who played with him and us coaches who had been with him ... he was a great player, but an even better person. Wonderful kid. Made you happy to be around him,” Loomis continued.
“It took a lot out of us, but we’re dedicating the season to him. And I think that now we understand what life’s all about, we understand these things sometimes happen.”
Grove City was leading the PAC in defensing field goals, including treys, but the Tomcats dictated tempo by establishing their athleticism. Thiel (5-3 PAC, 8-6 overall) tallied only 36.8 percent of its floor shots (21 of 57) and 31.6 percent of its 3-point fielders. But Thiel transitioned successfully out of its defense, coercing 19 Grove City turnovers and 29.3 percent Wolverines’ shooting.
“In the first half they got most of their points off of fast-break shots where we either fouled them or they got layups,” 15th-year Grove City head coach Steve Lamie assessed, “and the second half, same thing. We were trying to, maybe — and this is to Thiel’s credit — we were trying to be patient and get something more out of the framework of our offense.
“But their defense was so iron-clad that first half, we were trying to get, maybe, the first shot we could ... just because ... maybe we weren’t getting anything,” Lamie continued. “Had we made those, maybe it’s a different game, but it didn’t work out that way. That’s the best defense that we’ve played against all year.
“We almost played not to lose, not to make a mistake, rather than attacking, and you have to,” Lamie said. “Hopefully, you can counter (Thiel’s athleticism) with being more aggressive, being more confident. But they took us out of anything we tried to do offensively.”
Thiel took a 34-23 margin at intermission and maintained a double-digit lead throughout the 2nd half, leading by as many at 18 on a trio of occasions.
Former Kennedy Catholic High standout Chace McKinney maneuvered for a game-high 16 points, including 6-for-6 free-throw markmanship and also tossed in 2 second-half treys. Also, the PAC’s early-season leading rebounder Ladell Trotty tallied a dozen points and hauled down a half-dozen caroms, and New Castle native Anthony Harvey had a team-high 7 caroms and scored 8 points. Loomis utilized 15 players in a revolving-door rotation.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to build the last two, three years — building bench strength, kids that can just go in there and play defense, not turn it over, maybe get some transition buckets,” Loomis said. “We’re building everything on defense again.”
Grove City (2-5, 4-10) was led by Mitch Marmelstein’s 13 markers and J.T. Schwartz, who scored 12 before incurring an ankle sprain with approximately 5 minutes remaining.
The Grovers welcome Penn State-Altoona Monday night in a non-conference contest.
“It’s a quck turnaround, and sometimes that’s better when you don’t have to dwell on things,” Lamie continued. “You just take an amnesia pill and you move on to the next game, and I think that’s what we have to do.”
ä Grove City’s girls came into their contest leading the loop in rebounding margin (plus-6), field-goal defense (33 percent) and scoring defense (52.6). Though Thiel’s Kelly Muffley (17.4) and Kelly Barzak (16.9) were the leading and 3rd-best scorers in the PAC prior to Saturday’s tipoff, the Lady Wolverines wore them down.
Career 1,000-point scorer Muffley mustered only 9 markers on 3-for-12 shooting, owing, in part, to situational substitute Cayley McClean’s Doberman-like defense. And though Barzak bucketed a team-high 13, she needed 14 shots and emerged as the Lady Cats’ lone double-digit scorer.
Thiel trailed 22-17 at halftime.
“One thing we really focus on and emphasize is defense,” 3rd-year GCC head coach Michelle Bruns said. “It’s something we know we can control every day at practice and every game.
“We’ve got some good defenders and some good ability from individuals, but we really focus on the team, and it came together. We were able to shut down their two main scorers, which was our goal,” Bruns added, citing assistant coach Chelle Fuss for the defensive rotations.
“That’s a point of emphassis And we have some really strong rebounders. They pursue the ball and just really attack the boards well. So, offensively it gives us confidence shooting the basketball, because we know we’ll rebound close to half our shoots,” Bruns added.
Grove City (5-3, 6-6) grabbed a 49-37 rebounding edge and coerced the Lady Cats (1-7, 2-12) of 1st-year head coach Rob Clune into 31.4 percent shooting (16 for 41; also, 2 for 9 from beyond the arc.) Thiel turned over the ball 20 times.
One of a half-dozen yearlings 5-foot-10 or taller, Mary McDonald mustered a game-high 18 points and added 14 caroms to complete a double-double, while senior guard Leah Gibson garnered 16 points while committing only 1 miscue in 35 minutes.
Gibson, who has started 80 of a possible 81 games during her 4-year collegiate career, moved into 9th place in all-time GCC scoring annals (1,088).
GROVE CITY — The 2012-13 season has been both difficult and different for the Thiel College men’s basketball team.
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
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