North Clarion Knocks Off C-L to Form Virtual Tie at Top of KSAC North

STRATTANVILLE, Pa. (D9Sports) – The reaction from the North Clarion coaches, players and fans told anyone in attendance at the Wolves 66-48 shellacking of Clarion-Limestone Friday night at C-L just how important of a win it was for the boys from Frills Corners.

(Photo: North Clarion’s Nathan Banner, who was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game)

Not only did the victory push North Clarion into a virtual tie for first place with the Lions with a legitimate shot at winning the KSAC North – more on that below – it also signaled that the Wolves 16-2 record is no fluke.

“This is really huge,” North Clarion’s Nathan Banner, who was named the Hager Paving Player of the Game after scoring a team-high 19 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots, said. “It keeps us in the running for the KSAC Championship Game, which we have been dreaming of since we were little.”

Banner’s head coach, Andy Bish, said the victory was made sweeter considering the quality of opponent.

“The reason it is so exciting is because C-L is so good,” Bish said. “You are looking at five times straight (four if North Clarion has anything to do with it this year) in the KSAC North (for them). That is why it is so exciting to us. That is why I was amped up. I just wanted it for the kids.”

For C-L, it was the Lions worst conference loss since the 2012-13 season when it finished 12-11 overall and 8-8 in conference play (games vs. the KSAC South counted towards the conference record back then).

“We are just going to go back to practice (Saturday),” C-L head coach Joe Ferguson said. “I am most concerned about our defensive effort. Almost every game we have played in the last month, we have allowed the teams to either be winning or get a big lead, at the start of the game. We come in flat. I really think tonight might be a wakeup call to them to hopefully help us if we get into District play here. We have to play defense the first quarter.”

North Clarion came out like gangbusters Friday shooting 8 of 13 in the first quarter while taking a 21-11 lead at the end of the quarter thanks in part to three 3-pointers.

“It just us adrenalin for the rest of the game,” Banner said. “We knew we were going to come out hot, and it helped us the rest of the game.”

Here are Banner’s full thoughts on the win.

North Clarion’s lead grew to as many as 16, 35-19, in the first half before C-L was able to whittle it down to 12, 37-25 by halftime, and Ferguson believed his team was in an ok position being only down the 12 considering it shot 9 of 35 (25.7 percent) compared to North Clarion going 15 of 24 (62.5 percent).

“I told them, this is a game guys, just a few possessions,” Ferguson said of his halftime message. “The problem was. When you get down that far, it’s really difficult to get runs to come back.”

C-L, despite never really warming up and finishing the game 17 of 64 (26.6 percent), tried its best after the halftime break to rally and used an 8-0 run in the third quarter that was fueled by six points from Ian Callen, who finished with game-high 22, to cut the lead to 39-33 and then had the deficit to five, 41-36, following a 3-pointer by Hayden Callen with 3:33 left in the third.

But Banner answered with a three of his own to push the lead back to eight, 44-36.

“When we got it to five if we could have gotten one more stop, but Nathan hit that three,” Ferguson said. “At that point, it was like we hit deflation.”

It wasn’t quite like New England Patriot footballs for the Lions, though, as a bench technical foul on North Clarion – someone – not Bish – said something after Banner got clobbered taking a shot in the waning seconds of the quarter – allowed C-L to cut the deficit to six, 44-38, going to the fourth quarter.

Hayden Callen then took a feed from Christian Smith and put the ball through the hoop a minute into the fourth to get the Lions within four, 44-40.

But Logan Minich had the answer on the other end drilling a 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven, 47-40, and that seemed to be the dagger the Wolves needed.

“We held our composure,” Bish said. “Especially when C-L made a couple of runs. Teams in the past, we would have given that lead up. This team fought back and extended it back.”

C-L got the deficit back to six one final time, 48-42, on an Ian Callen basket with 5:25 to go, but Banner hit a shot and then a three in a span of just under 30 seconds to push the advantage back to 11, 53-42, and that started a game-ending 18-6 run that saw the Wolves running the fast break to perfection in the final three-plus minutes with their fans, who made the trek to C-L in masses enough to give North Clarion at least half the crowd behind it, and the bench whooping it up in celebration.

“It felt great,” Banner said. “We haven’t beat C-L (the entire time I have been playing). It felt great.”


1. Where does this leave the KSAC North and for that matter the South?

It creates a potential mess in terms of breaking the ties on top of both the North and the South.

North Clarion has a big game with Clarion Tuesday. If the Wolves win that and then beat Venango Catholic Friday and C-L takes care of business Tuesday with a win over Venango Catholic the two teams will sit tied for the KSAC North at 9-1.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head but the teams have split their meetings this year. The next tiebreaker is the tied teams’ records vs. the third-place team, then the fourth-place team (if third doesn’t break it), fifth-place and sixth-place teams in the division. As long as both school’s win out, they would still be tied.

Then it reverts to the record versus common opponent in the other KSAC division, in this case, the South, starting with the top spot and working your way down until the tie is broken. This is where it could get dicey. Keystone and Karns City are tied for first place in the KSAC South and like C-L and North Clarion, they have split their season series and most likely will have the same record vs. everyone else in the KSAC South.

Both divisional tiebreakers could very well hinge on the outcome of two games – the North Clarion game at Keystone Thursday (the one at North Clarion Feb. 13 is an “extra game” and doesn’t count in the tiebreaker) and the C-L game at Karns City Feb. 14.

If North Clarion would beat Keystone and C-L would lose to Karns City then North Clarion would win the North because C-L lost to Keystone. If North Clarion would lose to Keystone and C-L would beat Karns City then C-L would win the North because North Clarion lost to Karns City.

But if North Clarion would lose to Keystone and C-L would lose to Karns City the next tiebreaker would be the number of wins versus teams at or over .500. If that doesn’t break the tie, then the overall winning percentage of all teams played would need to be used. So as you can see, the North is now very complicated and will continue to be unless Clarion beats North Clarion Tuesday.

2. Maybe it is time we took notice of North Clarion.

Maybe it was the early-season loss to Clarion-Limestone by double digits. Maybe it was the home loss to Karns City. Maybe it’s the fact that Elk County Catholic is at it again with only two losses, both to unbeaten Ridgway. But there isn’t much chatter about North Clarion being a legitimate contender for the District 9 Class 1A title and perhaps that should change.

The Wolves are 16-2 after the win and their .889 win percentage is the fourth-best in District 9 behind only Ridgway, Coudersport and ECC. If the playoffs were to start today, they would be the two seed.

Of course, any tournament that has ECC in it has to have the Crusaders favored. But could North Clarion upset ECC? If they could get a lead like it did Friday night then yes. Make ECC play catch-up and speed the Crusaders up and North Clarion could pull off what would be considered an upset.

But getting on the opposite of the bracket from ECC will be important, and to ensure that North Clarion is going to need to make sure it doesn’t trip up too much with three big games left including two with Keystone and the one with Clarion. The Wolves don’t need to win all of those, but one or two would be helpful.

3. What about C-L, how does this loss affect the Lions come postseason time?

C-L is hoping for a seeding away from Ridgway in the District 9 Class 2A playoffs. This loss doesn’t help that cause. The Lions got a big break earlier in the week when Karns City knocked off Keystone pushing the Lions into the third-seed spot. But now, C-L with four losses is basically looking at a fourth seed if both it and Keystone, which also has four losses, would win out – far from a certainty in either case. And Clarion is lurking in the background as well with five losses, although the Bobcats lose a tiebreaker to C-L, which beat them twice. Ridgway and Coudersport are pretty locked into the top two seeds with the winner of Saturday’s game at Ridgway between the two in position to be the top seed. Ridgway is favored but Coudersport could win. So 2A is almost as much of a mess as the KSAC divisions.

4. Friday night North Clarion shared the basketball ball better than C-L did.

North Clarion had 14 assists on 27 made baskets and it was a team-wide effort led by four from Banner and three each from Keeven Weaver and Logan Minich.

Meanwhile, C-L had only five helpers on 17 baskets. Now the Lions shooting as poorly as they did didn’t help that. But C-L is at its best when it is sharing the basketball. Something it wasn’t doing much of Friday night. When the Lions get behind they tend to, as Ferguson said, get into “hero mode” were one guy thinks he has to do it all. But that usually doesn’t work well. Running the offense and moving the ball around is when the Lions have their most success.

5. Ian Callen is the real deal.

Yes, this is nothing new. But the junior continued to impress Friday night with 22 points, 10 rebounds, six on the offensive end, eight steals and an assist. He had as many steals as the entire North Clarion team, and he always seems to find a way into the passing lane. He just keeps getting better and better, and it’s scary to think he still has another year left.


North Clarion improved to 16-2 overall and 7-1 in the KSAC North. C-L fell to 15-4 overall and 8-1 in the KSAC North.


North Clarion has four contests left including the pair with Keystone because of an earlier snowout. The Wolves host Clarion in that huge game Tuesday before traveling to Keystone Thursday and then to Venango Catholic Friday before hosting Keystone Feb. 13.

C-L has three games left. The Lions are at Punxsutawney Monday, host Venango Catholic Tuesday and then are off eight days until traveling to Karns City for what could be a monster game on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.


Score by Quarters

North Clarion 21 16 7 22 – 66
Clar.-Limestone 11 14 13 10 – 48


Jesse Schmader 3 0-0 7, Sam Minich 1 0-0 3, Zander Hargenrader 1 0-0 3, Keeven Weaver 5 0-0 10, Logan Minich 3 0-0 7, Matson Higgins 4 1-1 9, Korey Mills 1 0-0 2, Tyler McCord-Wolber 0 1-2 1, Nathan Banner 7 2-2 19, Noah Myers 0 0-0 0, Kyle Mills 2 1-2 5. Totals 27 5-7 66.


Deion Deas 2 2-2 6, Julian Laugand 0 0-0 0, Ayden Wiles 0 0-0 0, Ian Callen 7 8-8 22, Kyle Kerle 0 0-0 0, Curvin Goheen 0 0-0 0, Christian Smith 3 1-3 7, Ian Hawthorn 0 0-0 0, Hayden Callen 4 2-2 11, Mitch Knepp 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 13-15 48.

Three-pointers: North Clarion 7 (Banner 3, Schmader, S. Minich, Hargenrader, L. Minich). C-L 1 (H. Callen).

Rebounds: North Clarion – 8 offensive, 27 defensive, 35 total (Weever 10, Banner 9). C-L – 17 offensive, 13 defensive, 30 total (Ian Callen 10, Hayden Callen 7, Christian Smith 5).

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