The Penns Valley boys’ basketball team played its 2-3 zone to near-perfection Monday night.
The Rams closed off St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s passing lanes, deflecting passes and generating steals. They stayed active, stepping up to stop any Wolves’ penetration and contesting shot attempts from the perimeter.
The zone limited St. Joseph’s to eight points in the first three quarters as Penns Valley ran away with a 51-18 win.
“They might be better defensively this year than they were last year,” SJCA coach Richard Ciambotti said. “It was really impressive to watch them work.”
Both programs are in a year of transition.
Penns Valley lost four starters from a team that made a state playoff run, while St. Joseph’s can no longer rely on 1,000-point scorer Stephen Beattie to fill up the box score every night.
Though it’s still early in the season, the Rams (2-0) will rely on the same defensive intensity to continue the program’s run of success. Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt was pleased with the team’s defensive effort — highlighted by limiting St. Joseph’s (0-1) to two field goals and four points combined in the second and third quarters — and played his entire 14-man roster.
All 14 players scored for the Rams.
“There’s some kids that work their hearts out in practice,” Glunt said. “It’s nice for them to get rewarded.”
After a sluggish start marked by poor shot selection, Penns Valley came to life in the second quarter.
The zone played a starring role as the Rams’ 6-4 lead ballooned to 24-6 at halftime. Aaron Tobias came up with a steal and a breakaway layup to get the scoring started in the second quarter. Luke Snyder, who had a team-high 12 points, scored six of the team’s next eight points to push the lead to 16-4 with 4:58 left in the half.
The Rams continued to dominate and had a chance to hold the Wolves scoreless in the second quarter.
With 12.9 seconds left, Penns Valley just needed one more stop.
But St. Joseph’s Nick Shearer got free with a pump fake and banked in a jumper to end the drought.
“Nothing really ever felt right tonight,” Ciambotti said.
Nothing ever came easy, either.
When Penns Valley’s reserves took over in the second half, the zone remained just as active.
They contributed to holding St. Joseph’s to two points in the third quarter and outscored the Wolves 12-10 in the fourth.
“They played their hearts out, they played with a lot of energy,” Glunt said. “I thought the last quarter and a half, my young kids got better defensively.”