North Clarion Headed to D9 1A Boys’ Title Game for First Time in 20 Years

CLARION, Pa. (D9Sports) – After two decades of near misses and close calls, the North Clarion boys’ basketball team is headed back to the District 9 Class 1A title game.

(Photo: Korey Mills of North Clarion drives in for what would be the game-winning layup with just under a minute to play Wednesday night. Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint

View a full photo gallery of the game from Dave Cyphert at ProPoint Media

The second-seeded Wolves earned a trip to Friday’s championship tilt by knocking off long-time nemesis Clarion-Limestone, the third seed, 42-40, in the semifinals Wednesday night in front of a packed house at Clarion High School.

Relisten to the game:

“It feels amazing,” North Clarion head coach Andy Bish, who saw his team fall in the semifinals in each of the previous two seasons, said. “It’s a hurdle we haven’t been able t get over the last couple of years.”

The Wolves (21-2) scored the final seven points of the game to erase a five-point deficit with under four minutes to play.

“Coach just said we have been down many times this year,” Tyler McCord-Wolbert, who was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game after scoring a game-high 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds, said. “It was five points. We are a good team. We have been here forever. We are just good chemistry and everything else.”

Korey Mills and Jacob Bauer were the heroes late for North Clarion.

Mills, who has been held scoreless through the game’s first 28:25 scored the final seven points for North Clarion, including the eventual game-winning basket on a driving layup with around 56.1 seconds to play.

“That layup was huge,” Bish said. “I kept trying to tell them the whole second half that they were in foul trouble and to penetrate, go, go, go. We kind of got that going there towards the end. Korey just found a lane and went right in with the left hand and put it up and in.”

C-L (21-4) had its chances after the Korey Mills basket made it 42-40 to tie or retake the lead including Ian Callen getting fouled by Sam Minich 75 feet from the basket with 14 seconds to play.

That sent Callen to the free-throw line shooting a one-and-one, but his first shot was off the mark, and Kyle Mills, who had nine points and 16 rebounds, snagged the board and was fouled.

But the 6-foot-7 Mills missed his free throw and the rebound went to C-L, who called timeout with 12.4 seconds left.

Following the timeout, Julian Laugand pushed the ball upcourt and got it to Hayden Callen, who had helped give the Lions the fourth-quarter lead with six points in the quarter. Hayden Callen started to dribble across the court and then attempted a pass to Deion Deas. But Bauer stepped into the passing lane and deflected the ball back towards midcourt. Ian Callen was able to corral the loose ball, but with time running out he was forced to try a 35-foot shot for the win that was too strong.

“Jacob Bauer has been a defensive specialist for us all year,” McCord-Wolbert said. “Ever since Matson (Higgins) got hurt. He knew his role on this team. He stepped up big time for us.”

The game was as tight as the final score with neither team gaining any more than the six-point lead C-L took, 24-18, in the opening minutes of the third quarter. The lead changed hands four times with six ties.

North Clarion led 34-32 going to the fourth quarter only to watch C-L start the quarter on an 8-1 run that featured the six points and two steals from Hayden Callen to go up 40-35 with 4:09 to play.

But as McCord-Wolbert said, Bish’s message to his team was a simple one.

“We have been down double digits at points during the season and came back and won,” Bish said. “This team isn’t scared of being down. The big message we talked about was 32 minutes. Just keep going 32 minutes, and you can live with the outcome if you give it your all for that long.”

Korey Mills took that message to heart, stopping the C-L run with a basket with 3:34 to play and then tying the game at 40 on a 3-pointer that took a friendly Wolves bounce with 2:53 left.

“Korey is just a kid who is a team player,” McCord-Wolbert said. “He knows his role. He comes in and scores the basketball for us.”

Watch all of McCord-Wolbert’s postgame interview.

Logan Minich and Korey Mills each added seven points in the win for North Clarion, while Deas paced C-L with 11 points. Hayden Callen had nine and Ian Callen seven.

North Clarion, which is in the D9 title game for the first time since 1999, will take on Elk County Catholic in the title game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, at DuBois High School.

“I am going to let the boys enjoy the heck out of this tonight,” Bish said. “I probably won’t sleep at all because I will be watching Elk County all night long. But, I am going to let them enjoy it. Once we hit school tomorrow (Thursday) it’s back to work.”

C-L’s season is far from over. The Lions will take on Johnsonburg in the consolation game at 6 p.m. Friday in DuBois. Both of those teams will also advance to the PIAA playoffs.


Score by Quarters

Clarion-Limestone 8 14 10 8 – 40
North Clarion 13 5 16 8 – 42


Deion Deas 5 0-0 11, Julian Laugand 1 1-2 3, Ayden Wiles 0 0-1 0, Ian Callen 2 2-5 7, Curvin Goheen 3 0-0 6, Kaden Park 1 0-0 2, Hayden Callen 4 0-0 9, Mitch Knepp 1 0-0 2, Drew Beichner 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 3-8 40.


Sam Minich 1 2-3 4, Jacob Bauer 0 0-0 0, Logan Minich 3 1-2 7, Korey Mills 3 0-0 7, Tyler McCord-Wolbert 4 5-9 15, Zyler Hargenrader 0 0-0 0, Devon Walters 0 0-0 0, Kyle Mills 4 1-3 9. Totals 15 9-17 42.

Three-pointers: C-L 3 (Deas, Ian Callen, Hayden Callen). North Clarion 3 (McCord-Wolbert 2, Korey Mills).

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