Keystone Answers Heath’s Questions with Win at Clarion-Limestone


STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (D9Sports) – Going into Wednesday night’s mid-season showdown at Clarion-Limestone, Keystone head coach Greg Heath wasn’t sure where his team stood.

(Photo: Corey Rapp of Keystone was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game)

Despite being 9-2 on the year and winning six in a row heading into the game, Heath was concerned his team hadn’t been tested in a while and coupled with a lack of practice time because of the weather might not be in the best condition.

Those concerns, however, were for naught as the Panthers used a 23-5 run to end the first half to spearhead a 62-52 win over the Lions in a rematch of last year’s KSAC Title Game also won by Keystone.

“I had some serious concerns coming into tonight,” Heath said. “We hadn’t been tested forever, since before the Christmas break. And I was seriously concerned about our conditioning, and our conditioning held up tonight. I thought we did ok. We were sharper than I suspected we would be.”

After leading the game from early in the first quarter and into the start of the second quarter, Keystone found itself trailing 20-18 after Christian Smith capped an 11-2 C-L run with a 3-pointer just over two minutes into the quarter.

But the Panthers answered with the 23-5 run that featured a game-tying basket from Ian Henry followed by a Nate Wingard basket to give Keystone the lead for good and was capped by Corey Rapp, who scored Keystone’s final 11 points of the half and 11 of the half’s final 16 points to give the Panthers a 41-25 halftime lead.

“Our defense,” Rapp, who had a game-high 21 points to go with nine rebounds and was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game, answered when asked what led to the run. “It’s all about ‘d’ for u. If we have good defense it turns into offensive points for us.”

Rapp had some other interesting things to say about the game including calling the win “a huge” one for the Panthers.

C-L head coach Joe Ferguson said the second-quarter run was demoralizing to him as a coach.

“As a coach, it was totally demoralizing because we weren’t making good decisions,” Ferguson said. “We gave up 41 points, which is what our goal is basically for a whole game. The thing was, we had fought back to get it to that 20-20 game and then we started making a lot of bad decisions.”

C-L also fought back in the third quarter outscoring Keystone 18-7 in the quarter behind 11 Ian Callen points to get within five, 48-43, going to the fourth. Callen had a team-high 17 points despite being in foul trouble the entire night. The Lions forced eight Keystone turnovers in the quarter while playing their best eight minutes of the night.

“We were making shots combined with the intensity level,” Ferguson said. “But when you give that big of a lead its hard. You get those runs but the bottom line is you can’t give up the lead we gave up in the second quarter. That is just too hard to overcome.”

Heath knew C-L would make a run at his team and prepared his players for it.

“I told the guys, they are going to make a run at you,” Heath said. “You have to be able to take their best shot and withstand it and then win the ball game. We did a pretty good job with that.”

A pair of Isaak Jones baskets early in the fourth quarter sandwiched around a Nate Wingard free throw helped Keystone stay ahead seven points, 53-46, in the first two minutes of the quarter.

Then, after Kyle Kerle had gotten C-L back within five, 53-48, with 5:32 to go, Max Thompson scored to make it 55-48 and then Wingard got an offensive rebound and scored with 3:48 left to push the lead back to nine, 57-48, with 3:48 to go. C-L never got closer than seven the rest of the way.

It didn’t help that Ian Callen fouled out of the game on a 50-50 loose ball battle with Dalton Jones with 2:52 to go. It ended a frustrating night for Callen, who was in and out of the game because of foul trouble.

“Not having Ian on the floor changes everything for us,” Ferguson said.

CHRIS’ THOUGHTS

1. C-L is in a funk and Ferguson believes it has to do with not playing or practicing.

The loss was C-L’s second in three days after losing once all season going into this week and not having a loss since Dec. 9. Maybe most concerning for the Lions, who came into the week averaging 69.7 points per game, is that they were held to a combined 93 points in losses to Clearfield Monday and then Keystone Wednesday. Ferguson, though, was quick to point to the Lions lack of games and practice time because of the foul weather of late. C-L hadn’t practiced since Thursday when it lost on Monday then had one practice before playing Keystone Wednesday.

“Those (bad decisions) happen when you are not playing,” Ferguson said. “This is only our second game after being laid off quite a bit. It’s almost like starting the season over. To the kids’ defense, they haven’t had enough time on the floor.

“I feel like the biggest thing for us right now is we need to get some games under our belt and get in a rhythm offensively. I think if we are in a rhythm and play a few games before this one it’s a different ball game.”

The one thing the Lions need to do is get back to sharing the basketball. On Wednesday, C-L had only three assists by my count on 22 made baskets. There was a bit too much one-on-one play and a lot of Ian Callen needing to create his own shot for C-L. Now credit the Keystone defense for some of that, as the Panthers did a great job taking away the inside game for the Lions. But at the same time, C-L wasn’t moving the ball as well as they had been earlier this season.

2. Keystone’s ball movement was fantastic.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Heath coached team moved the ball well. But Keystone was exceptional at running its motion offense, especially in the second quarter and the selflessness of the players was on full display.

Perhaps the sequence that showed that the best came in a span of about 40 seconds midway through the second quarter.

With 4:11 left in the half and the Panthers up two, 22-20, Wingard fed Luke Hurrelbrink, who was a good three feet behind the 3-point arc. Hurrelbrink must have been feeling it because he pulled up and hit nothing but net to put Keystone up 25-20.

On the very next possession down the court, Hurrelbrink had a fairly open look from three and considering he had just nailed a 23-foot shot it seemed certain he would take this one. But after thinking about it for a moment he realized Wingard had even a better look at a three and passed the ball to him. Wingard rewarded the decision by nailing the triple and pushing the Keystone lead to eight, 28-20.

“We have been preaching that we need to be selfless on offense,” Heath said. “We need to make the extra pass. If your teammate has a better shot than you make sure he gets the ball. If somebody is hot get them the ball. We have been doing a much better job of that. Our assist totals have been climbing here throughout the season. That is what I like to see. We are sharing the ball pretty well.”

3. Keystone beat C-L at its own game in the second quarter.

Going into the game, I asked both Heath and Ferguson about how they could get the other team to play their style of basketball considering the Lions like an up-tempo style and Keystone is a more deliberate team on offense.

Well, it turns out Keystone didn’t mind being in the open court and running, especially during the second-quarter run. Rapp, who Heath rightfully called a great athlete, thrived in the later stages of the quarter on running against C-L’s press and that helped the Panthers open up the 16-point halftime lead.

“We will go uptempo when it is there,” Heath said. “With their press, we were getting some opportunities and we were getting some run outs. They weren’t getting guys back, so we got some good opportunities. When opportunities are there, believe it or not, we will run. We do that.”

4. Keystone never panicked when C-L made its run.

When C-L made the run at Keystone in the third quarter, Keystone never panicked. Despite things not going its way, for the most part, the Panthers kept their calm and trusted their system. Part of that can be credited to being in close games early in the season. Four of Keystone’s first six games were decided by seven points or less including a pair of one-point games.

“It’s good to be in close games,” Heath said. “It’s good to be challenged. I think that helped us. We have been there before. There wasn’t any sense of panic.”

5. Ferguson didn’t want to even entertain the thought of a rematch.

Despite Keystone leading the KSAC South and C-L the KSAC North at the midpoint of each division’s season, and the fact Keystone and C-L are both in Class 2A and could meet in the District 9 playoffs, Ferguson didn’t even want to think about a possible rematch with the Panthers.

“I don’t want to talk about the KSAC Championship again,” Ferguson said. “North Clarion, Clarion (C-L two closest competitors in the KSAC North), and the way we are playing, if we don’t turn it around it (the KSAC North) is up for grabs.

THE OUTCOME

Keystone won its seventh straight game to improve to 10-2 on the season. The Panthers are in a seeding battle with Ridgway (10-0), Coudersport (9-1) and C-L for the top four spots in the District 9 Class 2A playoffs even though the postseason is still a month away.

The loss was C-L’s second straight and dropped the Lions to 9-3 on the year.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Keystone hosts Forest Area Friday before traveling to Venango Catholic Tuesday and then starting KSAC South play again Jan. 26 with a trip to A-C Valley. Then comes a makeup doubleheader with its girls’ team at Clarion Jan. 29.

C-L has a lot of games coming up as well.

After traveling to Moniteau Friday, the Lions travel to Redbank Valley for a makeup game Monday before hosting A-C Valley Tuesday. They then rematch with rival Clarion Jan. 26 before going to Cranberry Jan. 29.

KEYSTONE 62, CLARION-LIMESTONE 52

Score by Quarters

Keystone 16 25 7 14 – 62
Clar.-Lime. 11 14 18 9 – 52

KEYSTONE – 62

Ian Henry 3 0-1 6, Corey Rapp 8 2-4 21, Max Thompson 2 0-0 4, Dalton Jones 1 3-5 6, Nate Wingard 4 2-3 11, Isaak Jones 3 3-4 9, Brooks LaVan 0 0-0 0, Conner Exley 0 0-0 0, Luke Hurrelbrink 1 0-0 3, Dawson Steele 1 0-0 2. Totals 23 10-17 62.

CLARION-LIMESTONE – 52

Deion Deas 3 1-2 7, Julian Laugand 3 2-2 9, Ian Callen 8 1-1 17, Hayden Callen 2 0-0 5, Christian Smith 4 1-1 10, Kyle Kerle 2 0-0 4, Ian Hawthorn 0 0-0 0.

Three-pointers: Keystone 6 (Rapp 3, D. Jones, Wingard, Hurrelbrink). C-L 3 (Laugand, H. Callen, Smith).

Rebounding: Keystone – 8 offensive, 23 defense, 31 total (Rapp 9, Wingard 6, Henry 4). C-L – 10 offensive, 18 defense, 28 total (Deas 7, Laugand 5, Smith 5).


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