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.
Roundup: Sharon rallies to beat WM, 72-56
When West Middlesex High’s wonderful 2013 Final Four run ended last March 22, it was at Sharon’s Tiger gymnasium. And while Tuesday night’s circumstances were considerably less dramatic, they ended similarly.
The Big Reds built a 20-8 first-quarter bulge. Ultimately, however, West Middlesex made 27 miscues, resulting in a 72-56 District 10 inter-region setback at Sharon.
Roundup: WM girls beat UC; Sharpsville, KC fall
ä West Middlesex 52, Union City 27 — At Union City, coach Mike Williams’ Region 1-A Ms. Reds improved to 2-1 with a win over the Lady Bears of Region 4-AA.
Alyson Pierce scored 15 to lead WM, Noelle Murray registered 13 points and Allie Staunch bucketed 10 markers.
Hickory falls to Lions in PIAA Class AA western region final
SLIPPERY ROCK — Brett Brumbaugh brought Bill Brest back to reality.
Brest seemed, Saturday afternoon, momentarily lost in thought when a post-game question was posed. Perhaps it was because it had been 3 months since he had experienced the disappointment of defeat.
Brumbaugh-led South Fayette’s football team short-circuited a splendid season a step shy of the statewide stage for Brest and Hickory High with a 23-20 win over the Hornets in the PIAA Class AA western regional championship game.
SPORTVIEW: Browns, Steelers will both lose
THE CLEVELAND Browns quarterback position has been a revolving door this season, but at least one of the more successful signal-callers is back. Jason Campbell is recovered from a concussion and will start.
Does it really matter?
Roundup: Opening-weekend tipoff tourneys conclude
Kittanning Tipoff Championship
ä Hickory 60, Kittanning 32 — Coach Jeannette Whitehead’s Lady Hornets had an impressive weekend in winning the opening tourney of the season.
“It’s nice to get out of the game with a win,” said Whitehead. “The kids were anxious to get going.”
2013-14 hoops season begins with tipoff tourneys
Farrell Julius McCoy Tipoff Tourney
ä Kennedy Catholic 48, Imani Christian Academy 40 — The Golden Eagles set up an all local rematch with host Farrell by pulling away in the fourth quarter in a tight battle.
For KC, Gerald Zachar and Sam Crow each scored 13 points to pace the victory, Brown had 14 and Southerner 12 for Imani.
Brookfield boys win season-opener against Py Valley
It was a typical season-opener: Too many turnovers, some questionable shot selection, and careless personal fouls. But for Brookfield High boys’ bench boss Bill Kovach, “ ... always happy with a win.”
The Warriors were 7-for-10 from the free-throw line during the 4th frame, and held off Pymatuning Valley, 59-48, Tuesday night.
Hornets advance to semis with win over Central
DuBOIS, PA. — Some people could say the “third time is a charm.” For the Hickory High Hornets it was much more than that. In fact, it was glorious.
After losing in the first round of the PIAA Class AA playoffs the last two years, the Hornets finally nailed down a victory with a 37-27 triumph over the Central Dragons from Martinsburg.
Lakeview falls to Clarion Area in PIAA quarterfinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — In the scholastic athletic arena, “mercy rule” — while not politically correct in hyper-sensitive 2013 society — is a relatively accepted term.
Clarion High’s football had mercy-ruled all 13 prior opponents this season. And the Bobcats seemed bent on continuing their commanding conquests during Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal-round meeting with Lakeview.
Hickory focused on winning PIAA opener
The calendar reminds us that Thanksgiving arrives a little later than usual this year. But as holiday traditions go, this one has been pretty productive for Hickory High head football coach Bill Brest.
“My wife always has me put up our Christmas tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving ... and the next day, we’ve won. So I’ll be more than happy to help my wife put up the tree this Friday,” Brest related.
During the past 2 years Hickory has won District 10 titles on Thanksgiving weekend. But this year the Hornets harvested their 3rd consecutive crown last week, jettisoning Girard (21-10). Now Hickory (11-1) has a 1 p.m. date in DuBois Saturday against surprising Central-Martinsburg (11-2) in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
Smart move by PIAA to schedule games early this weekend
Congratulations to the PIAA for making a good move that helps teams and fans of high school sports.
Wow, I haven’t been able to say that often enough!
But many of the high school football games this coming weekend will be played in the afternoon which is a real plus for traveling on possibly snow-blown highways at this time of the year.
Hornets 3-peat as D-10 champs with win vs. Girard
EDINBORO — When legendary coach Vince Lombardi said “the only good thing that comes from losing is the desire never to lose again,” he could very well have been referencing the future for Coach Bill Brest and his Hickory Hornets.
Since Hickory lost to Sharon, 14-6, in the 2010 District 10 finals in Brest’s first year at the helm of the team, the D-10 Class AA title game has belonged to Hickory. And Saturday afternoon at Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium, it was no different as the Hornets topped Girard, 21-10 for a third straight crown.
Sailors beat Devils to capture 1st District 10 title
NEW WILMINGTON — Lakeview may have a long way to go to equal Sharpsville’s success in the sport of football, but the Sailors jump-started the process Friday night.
With Blake Reddick roaring into the record book, the Sailors shut out Sharpsville, 27-0, in the District 10 Class A championship game at Greyhounds Stadium.
Hornets seek 3-peat Saturday vs. Girard
Bill Brest ... buffer?
Hickory High’s head football coach has broad shoulders and that’s necessary, because he’s taking on all distractions as his Hornets prepare for Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship game.
Hickory (10-1) will attempt to hoist the D-10 trophy for a 3rd consecutive season when the Hornets journey to Girard’s backyard — Edinboro University’s Sox Harrison Stadium — to meet the Yellow Jackets at 1 p.m.
Hickory rolls past Northwestern in D-10 semifinals
SLIPPERY ROCK — They say that “Familiarity breeds contempt.” You can bet the Northwestern Wildcats are feeling a bit of the latter for the Hickory Hornets!
For a third straight season Hickory eliminated the northerners from the District 10 Class AA playoffs, this time by a 52-14 score in the semifinals Saturday night at Slippery Rock University’s Thompson-Mihalik Stadium.
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- Roundup: Sharon rallies to beat WM, 72-56