GROVE CITY — The 2017-2018 winter sports season kicked off for three Allied News area teams at the 47th annual Kiser Classic at Grove City High School.
Grove City girls and boys teams both won, while the Slippery Rock boys bowed on opening night of the tournament. Following are details on the first games of the new campaign. Second night stories appear in the winter sports roundup:
• The Grove City girls got off to a fast start. The young Lady Eagles jumped out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back in a 51-24 win over Jamestown at The Eagles Nest Friday night.
“We’ve talked a lot about coming out and being ready to play right off the bat,” Grove City coach Chris Burtch said. “When we came out tonight, we just had a real good energy. I was real happy with Abby, Lilly, Tayler and Macguire and their attitude at the beginning of the game. They were kind of fired up and you could tell that calmed (freshmen Becca Santom and Clara Hannon) down a little bit. It was a really good team win.”
Starting 2 juniors, a sophomore and 2 freshmen, getting a win and building some early-season confidence was imperative for the Lady Eagles (1-0).
“It was hugely important for us to get the win here tonight,” Burtch said. “We’re going to play a tremendously difficult schedule with such a young team, so this certainly puts a pretty good vibe in the air right now.”
Despite doubling up the Lady Muskies (0-1) on the scoreboard, the Lady Eagles still had their own fair share of obstacles to overcome —namely 20 turnovers.
They were able to overcome the road bump with a balanced ledger, featuring a game-high 16 points, 3 steals and 3 rebounds from Hannon. Junior Lilly Burtch (9), Abby Biddle (8), sophomore Katie McDowell (8) and freshman Santom (7) joined forces with Hannon to score 48 of Grove City’s 51 points.
“Holy crap, look at that balanced scoring,” Chris Burtch said. “That’s really nice to see. Macguire Gubba, Tayler Persinger and Emma Isenberg gave us some really good minutes off the bench, too. It was one of those games where it was nice to shake the rust off and get a win.”
Grove City’s defense bothered the Lady Muskies all evening, forcing the visitors into 26 turnovers and misfiring on 29-of-37 shots. Jamestown did not score over the game’s first 6:58 and never reached double digits in any quarter.
“Defensively, we were able to force pressure and switch up defenses on them,” Chris Burtch said. “We looked urgent and athletic out there. I think that’s going to be the name of the game for us this year.”
Notes: Bailey Prell led Jamestown with 15 points. ... Grove City held a 47-26 advantage on the glass. ... Santom had 5 rebounds and 4 steals, while McDowell pulled down a team-high 6 rebounds. ... Hannon also had 3 assists. ... Grove City made 20-of-50 attempts from the field and were 7-of-15 from the line.
• Christmas may be just over 2 weeks away, but Grove City boys were in a giving mood Friday.
In the nightcap of the 4-game Kiser Classic, the Eagles handed out 15 assists on 23 field goals en route to a 67-49 victory over Fort LeBouef at The Eagles’ Nest.
“We’re an unselfish bunch,” Grove City coach Jeff Loughry said. “A lot of these kids played last year. They’re buying into sharing the ball, being where they need to be at and running our stuff. It’s refreshing to see high school basketball being played when they don’t care who’s scoring.”
Sticking with the Christmas theme, the Eagles (1-0) were also Ebenezer Scrooge-like with just 3 turnovers despite 11 different players seeing minutes in the first quarter.
“We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys tonight,” Loughry said. “That was nice to see. I’m old school with exhibition games like this. You use practice to evaluate some things and who we play, but sometimes, you have to put them in the game in uniform and see how they perform under the bright lights. I think December is the time for us to see what these kids can do and who can help us win.”
The Grove City offense showed some dexterity Friday night, making 6-of-15 3-pointers in the first half before predominantly attacking the basket in the second half.
“We talked about not settling for 3’s, especially when they’re going in early,” Loughry said. “You can fall in love with (3-pointers) offensively and you don’t have the chance for rebounds or 50-50 balls, because guys are standing around waiting for when it’s their turn. It’s kind of like fool’s gold with all those 3’s.
“In the second half, we did a much better job of attacking and moving not only the ball but our feet. We can shoot the basketball. Scoring is not going to be a problem for us.”
Limiting opposing offenses may be a problem, though.
“I felt we gave up too many points tonight overall,” Loughry said. “We have to get better defensively and we will. Will we get to where we need to be? I don’t know. I thought we fouled too much — the officiating was great tonight — and we gave up too many straight line drives. We didn’t have 1-on-1 containment. I thought we gave them too many three opportunities by not running them off.”
Isaac Thrasher led Grove City with a game-high 21 points, while Logan Lutz (11) and Marcos Cintron (10) also reached double figures. Brayden Martin tacked on 5 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds.
“Isaac puts in as much time in the gym as any guy I’ve ever coached,” Loughry said. “He reminds me a lot of Danny Torok and Brendan Record.”
The Bison (0-1) — who shot under 40 percent from the field (20-of-52) were paced by Brandon Kupniewski’s 18 and Dylan Proctor’s 10 points and 5 rebounds.
“They’re a good team,” Loughry said. “They’re going to win some games this year, so it was good to get ourselves together and get this win.”
Notes: Martin Beatty had a team-high 4 rebounds, while A.J. Miller blocked 2 shots. ... Caiden Mattocks finished with 9 points, while Kade Persinger had 4 assists. ... Grove City made 23-of-47 shots from the field and were 9-of-20 from behind the arc.
• Slippery Rock boys coach Randy Armagost can’t put a finger on it, but there’s something about Grove City High gym that his players just can’t shake.
The Rockets fell to 0-3 at Grove City under Armagost’s tutelage with a 44-37 setback to Clarion-Limestone Friday night in the opening night of the 47th annual Kiser Classic at The Eagles’ Nest.
“We just can’t play in this gym,” the third-year coach said. “In my three years here, the worst I’ve seen them play is in this gym. I don’t get it. For three years, every team comes in here and we can’t do anything right. I can’t figure it out. It has to be a mental block with Grove City. It has to be. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. Holy heck.”
Slippery Rock (0-1) connected on just 16-of-61 shots from the field and didn’t attempt a single foul shot against the Lions (1-0).
“Shooting somewhere around 15 percent for the game doesn’t help things,” Armagost said. “I’m just disappointed. We didn’t play all that bad. We had good looks — layups, 3-pointers. We just missed them. We shot zero foul shots. That can’t happen. Can’t happen.”
The Rockets grabbed an early 3-0 lead on a Nick Whertey trey early in the first quarter, but allowed C-L go on a 12-2 run to take a 12-5 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. SR was able to close gap to 2 points at 27-25 at the end of the third quarter and stayed within 2 possessions for most of the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get over the hump.
“We have to figure out ways to give them confidence,” Armagost said. “We didn’t”
Turnovers also proved costly with Slippery Rock committing 20 to Clarion-Limestone’s 15.
“We executed and did the things we were supposed to do,” Armagost said. “I didn’t think they really hurt us. We just couldn’t make a shot. That’s it. We played the kind of game that we wanted to play. We just couldn’t make any shots.”
NOTES: Junior Logan Croll paced Slippery Rock with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals, while Rod Williams tacked on 6 points and 14 rebounds. ... Wherthey dropped in 12 tallies. ... Slippery Rock held a 47-37 edge on the glass. ... Clarion-Limestone was led by Ian Callen’s 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Christian Smith posted a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double.